Urban district (Great Britain and Ireland)
|Category||Local government district|
|Location||England and Wales and Ireland|
|Found in||Administrative county|
Local Government Act 1894|
Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898
Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971|
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 2001
|Government||Urban district council|
In England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, an urban district was a type of local government district that covered an urbanised area. Urban districts had an elected urban district council (UDC), which shared local government responsibilities with a county council.
England and Wales
They replaced the earlier system of urban and rural sanitary districts (based on poor law unions) the functions of which were taken over by the district councils. The district councils also had wider powers over local matters such as parks, cemeteries and local planning. An urban district usually contained a single parish, while a rural district might contain many. Urban districts were considered to have more problems with public health than rural areas, and so urban district councils had more funding and powers than comparable rural districts.
Urban districts usually covered smaller towns, usually with populations of less than 30,000. Originally there were 1013 urban districts. Under the Local Government Act 1929 206 urban districts were abolished. Many were merged with surrounding rural districts, and so many urban districts often covered some rural areas as well. Larger towns became municipal boroughs (already created, in 1835 under the Municipal Reform Act 1835) which had a slightly higher status, and the right to appoint a mayor.
All urban districts in England and Wales were abolished in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, and replaced with a uniform system of larger districts, which often covered both urban and rural areas. Many parish councils in England were created for towns previously covered by urban districts. In Wales, all urban and rural areas are now covered by communities.
In Ireland urban districts were created in 1898 by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 based on the urban sanitary districts created in 1878 and the suburban townships adjacent to Dublin city. Urban districts had powers greater than towns with town commissioners but less than the municipal boroughs preserved by the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 or created subsequently. A few places were promoted or demoted between these three categories in subsequent decades.
After the partition of Ireland in 1920–22 urban districts continued in both the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland. The rural and urban districts in Northern Ireland were abolished in 1973, and replaced with a system of unitary districts. In the Republic, while rural districts were abolished in 1925 and 1930, urban districts continued to exist but were renamed simply 'towns' under the Local Government Act 2001.