NEARLY half the residents in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole identify as Christian, new census figures show as England and Wales see a sharp drop.

Office for National Statistics data from the 2021 census shows 47 per cent of people in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole selected Christianity as their religion and about 42 per cent selected "no religion" last year.

Of those who selected "no religion", 295 people said they were agnostic, while 110 selected Atheism.

Across BCP, 6,645 identified as Muslim last year and 2,841 residents said they were Hindu in the survey.

There were 2,022 Buddhists and 1,601 residents who selected Judaism.

Of the other options, 698 said they were pagans and 30 said they practice Heathenism.

And the percentage of people saying they had no religion jumped from around a quarter (25 per cent) in 2011 to over a third (37 per cent) last year.

The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell said: "It's not a great surprise that the census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known."

The National Secular Society said the figures show that aspects of society such as the Anglican establishment and daily prayers and worship in parliament and schools, are "all inappropriate, hopelessly outdated and fail to reflect the country we actually live in" and called for reform.

Stephen Evans said, the society's chief executive, said: "It's official we are no longer a Christian country."