Hart in North East Hampshire has reclaimed the crown as the UK’s best place to live for the fifth time in six years, findings from the 2017 Halifax Quality of Life Survey show.
People in Craven, North Yorkshire are the happiest in the UK, gaining top spot based on residents' health and life expectancy, wellbeing, earnings, employment, a low crime rate and relatively good weather.
Russell Galley, managing director, Halifax, said: “Hart seems to have been offering residents an unrivalled mix of living standards for five of the last six years, seeing employment rates, average earnings and ONS personal wellbeing rankings bounce back after falling from the top spot last year.
“Along with Hart, many areas in southern England score strongly in categories including the labour markets and health. Northern areas tend to perform well on education and benefit from more affordable properties with lower house prices to earnings.”
However, having such great quality of life would appear to come at a price, with the cost of living in Hart much higher than in many other parts of the UK – and an average house price of £419,231 standing at 8.8 times the average annual pre-tax local income, compared to the national average of 7.3.
Hart moved from 26th position last year having improved relative to other local authorities on average earnings, employment rate and in the ONS personal well-being survey, where it also scored strongly compared to 2016.
Residents feel fit and well with more than nine in 10 (97%) reporting good or fairly good health.
It has the longest average female life expectancy in the UK of 86.7 years, and third longest for males (82.5).
Hart has one of the highest employment rates with eight in ten (84%) 16-64 year-olds in work and weekly average earnings of £844.
The latest ONS figures indicated adults living in Hart are amongst the most happy, satisfied and content in the UK. Residents enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the country
They also have a relatively good climate with more sunshine, making up 32.5 hours per week compared to the national average of 29.7 hours.
The Orkney Islands have taken second place, followed by Rutland in the East Midlands, Wychavon in Worcestershire and last year’s winner Winchester in fifth place, dropping in three of the four categories in the ONS personal well-being survey but still scoring strongly on employment rate, earnings, good health and life expectancy.
More two thirds (35) of top 50 areas for the best places to live are in southern England with 17 in the South East, nine areas in the East of England, five in the South West and four in London.
These areas include Wokingham (6 th), Waverley (7th), Uttlesford (11th), Westminster (13th ), South Oxfordshire (14th), St Albans (15th) and Chiltern (19th).
In the North, most areas have relatively better housing affordability conditions with a low house price to earnings ratio.
They also benefit from the urban environmental factors such as low traffic flows, crime rates and fewer people per square kilometre, which could explain why they have very low average primary school sizes.
The Orkneys in northern Scotland has retained second place from 2016 with the highest employment rate (87.0%) in the UK. More than nine in 10 adults (96.6%) there continue to enjoy good or fairly good health.