Hart remains 'most desirable place'

Messenger Newspapers: Hart has been named the UK's most desirable location to live in a study measuring quality of life Hart has been named the UK's most desirable location to live in a study measuring quality of life

Hart in Hampshire has been crowned the most desirable place to live in the UK for the third year in a row.

The annual Halifax quality of life survey looks at a wide range of factors such as health and life expectancy, crime rates, weather, employment and the performance of local schools.

Nowhere in Wales or Northern Ireland made the "top 50" list, but Scotland scraped in with the Orkney Islands placed at number 50. Just one area of London was included, with the City of London in 38th position.

Nestled in the north-east corner of Hampshire, residents of Hart were found to be the healthiest in the UK, with 97.4% of residents reported to be in good or fairly good health.

They also live the longest in the UK, with an average male life expectancy of 82.9 years compared with the national average of 79 years. The 80% employment rate in Hart is also significantly above the national average of 71%, while typical weekly earnings in Hart at £843 are more than one-third higher than the national average of £616.

The district of Hart, which is centred on the town of Fleet, has been dubbed "a step back in time", with 84 square miles of green wooded landscape and Hampshire's largest freshwater lake.

But Hart residents face paying a high premium to live there. The average house price in Hart is 7.0 times the annual local wage - much higher than the UK average multiple of 5.8 times.

Uttlesford in Essex, which came in second place, also has an average house price-to-earnings ratio of 7.0. Uttlesford, which was placed at number six a year ago, performed particularly well with its 84% employment rate and weekly average earnings of £819.

This year saw several big climbers into the top 10 list of districts with the best quality of life, mainly because Halifax has started taking into account new Office for National Statistics (ONS) research into personal wellbeing.

South Northamptonshire soared up 27 places to the third spot, Rushcliffe in Nottingham shot up from number 22 last year to seven and Winchester, which was placed at number 34 in 2012, is now in ninth place.

The new ONS research also helped to push Uttlesford into second place. It revealed that adults in Uttlesford believe, more than anywhere else in the UK, that what they do in life is worthwhile, scoring 8.4 out of 10 on this measure.

Continuing a trend, the South East dominated the top 50 list, claiming almost half of it, with a total of 24 mentions. Meanwhile, the East of England claimed 12 of the places.

Southern areas tend to score more highly for weekly earnings, weather, health and life expectancy while the North fares well on education and lower house prices in relation to earnings.

Researchers found that employment is highest in Northamptonshire, at 88.9%. The highest weekly average earnings are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea at £1,323.

Meanwhile, the biggest homes are in Uttlesford, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Rutland, which all have an average of 6.4 habitable rooms. The smallest homes are all in central London - in the City of London, Tower Hamlets and Westminster. All these London areas have less than 4.0 habitable rooms on average.

A total of 100% of homes in East Ayrshire, Scotland, were found to have central heating, compared with the average of 96%. The Orkney Islands has the lowest burglary rate at 1.0 per 10,000 people.

Castle Point in Essex has the lowest average annual rainfall at 20in (508mm), while the Isle of Wight was named as the sunniest place in the UK. Isle of Wight residents enjoy 37.4 hours of sunshine a week, compared with the national average of 29.7 hours.

Martin Ellis, an economist at Halifax, said: "The old adage of 'health, wealth and happiness' is the traditional measure of a good quality of life.

"For the third year running Hart has delivered against a range of indicators to demonstrate its residents have the best quality of life in the UK."

Here are the top 50 local authority districts in the UK in Halifax's quality of life survey:

1. Hart, South East

2. Uttlesford, East of England

3. South Northamptonshire, East Midlands

4. Waverley, South East

5. East Hertfordshire, East of England

6. Elmbridge, South East

7. Rushcliffe, East Midlands

8. Wokingham, South East

9. Winchester, South East

10. Chelmsford, East of England

11. South Cambridgeshire, East of England

12. Mole Valley, South East

13. Vale of White Horse, South East

14. Windsor and Maidenhead, South East

15. Chiltern, South East

16. Epsom and Ewell, South East

17. Mid Sussex, South East

18. South Kesteven, East Midlands

19. North Kesteven, East Midlands

20. Horsham, South East

21. Rutland, East Midlands

22. East Cambridgeshire, East of England

23. St Albans, East of England

24. Surrey Heath, South East

25. East Hampshire, South East

26. Maldon, East of England

27. Reigate and Banstead, South East

28. South Buckinghamshire, South East

29. Tunbridge Wells, South East

30. South Norfolk, East of England

31. Melton, East Midlands

32. Eastleigh, South East

33. Harrogate, Yorkshire and the Humber

34. Mid Suffolk, East of England

35. Stratford-on-Avon, West Midlands

36. Woking, South East

37. St Edmundsbury, East of England

38. City of London, London

39. Bracknell Forest, South East

40. Rochford, East of England

41. Malvern Hills, West Midlands

42. Warwick, West Midlands

43. Central Bedfordshire, East of England

44. Aylesbury Vale, South East

45. Test Valley, South East

46. Ryedale, Yorkshire and the Humber

47. Sevenoaks, South East

48. Isles of Scilly, South West

49. Fareham, South East

50. Orkney Islands, Scotland

Here are the local authority districts which were found to have the best quality of life in each region, followed by how these districts ranked in the overall survey:

:: South East, Hart, 1

:: East of England, Uttlesford, 2

:: East Midlands, South Northamptonshire, 3

:: Yorkshire and the Humber, Harrogate, 33

:: West Midlands, Stratford-on-Avon, 35

:: London, City of London, 38

:: South West, Isles of Scilly, 48

:: Scotland, Orkney Islands, 50

:: North West, Cheshire East, 105

:: North East, Northumberland, 130

:: Wales, Monmouthshire, 149

:: Northern Ireland, Fermanagh, 180

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