The ONS figures show that big cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol get a fair share, but the largest proportion choose places close by: Dartford, Epsom and Ewell, Hertsmere, Epping Forest, Thurrock, Broxbourne – all on the fringes of London either within the M25 or just outside.
In Thurrock and Dartford, nearly two-thirds of all people arriving last year came from London. To the north, more than half of arrivals to the Hertfordshire districts of Broxbourne and Hertsmere were Londoners. This raises the question: are people leaving London, or is London simply growing beyond the green belt and the M25, swallowing up villages the way it once swallowed the fields around Islington Green or the valley of Peckham Rye?
Essendon is on the menu for Londoners. The hilltop village, most famous for being the victim of a zeppelin bombing raid that destroyed its church in 1916, is a collection of finely manicured cottages with trailing lobelia at every turn. Many homes here are owned by the estate of the novelist Barbara Cartland, who lived nearby, while outside the village the roads are dotted with estates owned by footballers and pop stars.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last week showed that 340,500 people moved out in the 12 months before June 2018, the largest number since the ONS began collecting data in 2012. London is now the only region in England where more people are leaving than arriving from other parts of the country – only international arrivals are keeping the population steady.
The exodus is having a noticeable impact on the city: 40% of places are unfilled at St Aloysius primary school in Camden, so officials have earmarked it for closure at the end of 2019. Stamford Hill primary will probably merge with its neighbour, Tiverton primary school in south Tottenham, and other schools are likely to follow. A declining birth rate is one reason. Parents are leaving London faster than at any time in recent memory.
Everyone thinks they know why: knife crime, outrageous house prices, pollution that blackens your nostrils … But are these the real reasons for the unprecedented exodus?