Nepalese speakers are 6.2% of Rushmoor populationBy Amy Taylor
March 12, 2013
NEPALESE speakers now make up more than 6% of the population of Rushmoor, official figures have confirmed, with numbers steadily increasing.
Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on March 4 has shown that 6.2% of people in Rushmoor speak Nepalese as their first and main language, which equates to 5,584 people.
The figure may come as little surprise to many living or working in the borough, which was named the Buddhist capital of the UK after census data was released in December, but it now cements Rushmoor’s top ranking as the place in the UK with the largest population of Nepalese speakers.
Karen Evans, head of strategy and communications at Rushmoor Borough Council, said that the large increase in numbers following a legislative change was now steadying.
“Our own figures suggest that 7.4% of our population are Nepalese, so it’s roughly 7%,” she said.
“I wouldn’t like to predict migration figures, but we are noticing them migrating out to neighbouring areas like Surrey Heath and Reading, so I doubt we’ll see it jump to 15% or 20%.
“The borough size is going to grow, with new homes planned in the Aldershot Urban Extension, but we are still seeing people arrive, so there will be a steady but general increase.”
She said the initial changes noticed in Rushmoor after Gurkha soldiers were granted the right to settle in the UK in 2009 had been massive, but now it was ‘business as usual’.
“We had no mechanism to deal with them at first,” she said.
“There weren’t many Nepalese speakers around, even though we were the most ethnically diverse borough in Hampshire, but compared to the rest of the country, we didn’t have the capacity to deal with it.”
Funding from the government was approved after desperate pleas for support from Rushmoor Borough Council, some of which went towards hiring two new advisors.
The first, a customer service advisor at the council, is bilingual and supports Gurkha families with queries about housing benefit and council services. The second does a similar job at Rushmoor Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), which experienced the same influx of clients and enquiries as the council.
“The rate of increase has dropped and we have the infrastructure in place to cope. We may have a question when the funding pot runs out but my guess is that it will be mainstream by then.”
While Nepalese was by far the most sizeable group of foreign language speakers, with 352 in Hart and 733 in Surrey Heath, other languages were also notable.
Polish speakers were numerous, with 294 recorded in Hart, 621 in Rushmoor, 727 in Waverley (covering Farnham), 342 in Surrey Heath, and 987 in Guildford (covering Ash).
There are also 242 French speakers in Waverley, 286 Filipino speakers in Rushmoor, 114 speakers of various African languages in Hart, and four Hebrew speakers in Surrey Heath.