The Location of Industry

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The Location of Industry

Many factors influence the location of industry. Initially, in the United Kingdom industry was fairly closely tied to where the raw materials were, in particular coal for power.

raw materials

Nowadays, the change from heavy industry to light, footloose industry, has meant that industries can locate anywhere and so other factors, such as communications links and government policy, become far more important.

Location factors are easily divided into two sections: Physical factors and socio-economic (human) factors.

A general rule is that the physical factors were the primary influence over the location of the old industries in Britain,whilst the economic ones are increasingly important in industrial location now.

Accessibility: The site of the new factor needs to be accessible, so that importing of raw materials and exporting of finished products is easy.

Early industry had to have good access to raw materials, usually though natural routes like rivers. Nowadays access is needed to transport routes.

Climate: The climate could affect where an industry locates, as it needs to attract workers to the area. This is not a particularly important factor.

Land: The site of an industry is very important. Usually, flat land is the most essential thing to find. Most industries alsotry to find areas where there is room to expand once production has become successful.

Victorian industries often located in the inner city areas of towns, which didn't allow much room for expansion, but was required because the work-force could live within walking distance of the factory.

Today cars have allowed industry to move to out-of-town locations as the workers can drive to the factory.

Power: Initially, industry had to locate right beside its power source. Water power was used at first, and then the burning of coal produced steam power. Both sources of energy restricted where industries could locate, as they had to be beside a suitable river or near the coal field.

power stations

Now, industries can gain their power from the National Grid and so power does not really influence location a great deal.

Raw Materials: Old, heavy industry required large amounts of bulky raw materials, which were very costly to transport, and so the industry located close to them. Newer industries are described as being footloose, as they are not tied by being near raw materials, which are smaller and easier to transport.

Capital: Very important to any industry. Companies cannot set up their chosen industry without investment of money. This may come from private sources or from the government.

Communications: Probably the most important factor for new industries nowadays. Most need communications links not only to the rest of the country, but to the rest of Europe and the World. Transport routes such as the motorways, airports, railways and the ports are all things that will attract industrial location.

Communications increasingly also includes access to the internet, fax and phones. All these allow industries to have a greater freedom of choice over their location.

Government policy: Governments can greatly influence the location of industry, by giving tax incentives, cheap rent and other benefits to companies locating in certain areas of the country. Often these are places, which the government wants to develop economically. Government policy also lead to the closure of many of the heavy industries in the United Kingdom, such as numerous coal mines and ship building yards.

Labour Supply: Very important to old, labour-intensive industries. This is why many of them located in the inner cities, so that there was a huge pool of potential workers close by. With the growth in car ownership, and industries becoming more mechanised labour supply is not such an important factor for most industries. However, some industries rely on it.

Many of the quaternary industries in the UK are found near the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, as they wants to attract skilled, knowledgeable graduates for their industry.

power stations

Markets: Access to markets is vital, and this ties in with the section on communications. In the last 19th Century the market for most industries would be fairly local. Into the 20th century the market widened with improved transport technology. Now, the market for many companies is a global one.

Over the past two hundred years, industry has changed remarkably in the United Kingdom. From the cottage industries of the early 19th century, through the Industrial Revolution and the growth of heavy manufacturing, to the decline of those industries and the growth of footloose, hi-tech industries. The graph in the section on 'Employment structures' showed how the employment in the different sectors has changed.

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