BRITAIN'S best 50 places to live are highlighted in a survey of rural areas with the best quality of life.
Cambridgeshire occupies two of the top three positions of the latest Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey.
East Cambridgeshire is ranked first, with neighbouring South Cambridgeshire - last year's winner - in third place.
Wychavon in Worcestershire in second place separates the two Cambridgeshire areas.
The survey of all 119 local authority districts ranked local performance across key indicators covering the labour market, the housing market, the environment, education and health.
Rural residents in East Cambridgeshire tend to be fit and well with 93% reporting general good health, and have the joint highest life expectancy amongst rural areas where life expectancy is four years more than the UK average.
The employment rate is high, at 79%, and many residents enjoy relatively high incomes with weekly average earnings of £707. Residents also have the lowest domestic CO2 emissions of all rural local area districts
On top of all this, enjoying a high quality of life in East Cambridgeshire does not come at a particularly high cost either. The average house price in the area is 5.3 times local annual gross earnings, which is below the average house price to earnings ratio for all rural areas of 5.9.
Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said: "In recent years, East Cambridgeshire has performed consistently well against a wide range of indicators to demonstrate that its residents have amongst the best quality of life in rural Britain.
"In particular, health and life expectancy in East Cambridgeshire are amongst the highest of all rural areas.
Rural residents across south east England typically enjoy a good quality of life.
Almost one third (15) of the 50 rural local authority districts (LADs) with the highest quality of life are in south east England. The south east is followed by the East of England (13) and the East Midlands (12).
The remaining LADs in the top 50 are in South West (4), Yorkshire & the Humber (3), Scotland (2) and the West Midlands (1).
Rankings for individual local authority districts are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Local authority district||Region|
|1||East Cambridgeshire||East of England|
|3||South Cambridgeshire||East of England|
|4||East Hertfordshire||East of England|
|6||Aylesbury Vale||South East|
|8||Uttlesford||East of England|
|11||Huntingdonshire||East of England|
|12||South Oxfordshire||South East|
|13||North Kesteven||East Midlands|
|14||Test Valley||South East|
|15||Mid Sussex||South East|
|16||Vale of White Horse||South East|
|17||Maldon||East of England|
|18||Tonbridge and Malling||South East|
|19||East Northamptonshire||East Midlands|
|20||South Kesteven||East Midlands|
|22||South Northamptonshire||East Midlands|
|23||West Berkshire||South East|
|24||West Oxfordshire||South East|
|26||St Edmundsbury||East of England|
|27||Selby||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|28||Forest Heath||East of England|
|30||Suffolk Coastal||East of England|
|32||East Hampshire||South East|
|34||Forest of Dean||South West|
|35||South Holland||East Midlands|
|36||Mid Suffolk||East of England|
|37||East Riding of Yorkshire||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|40||Broadland||East of England|
|42||South Derbyshire||East Midlands|
|43||East Dorset||South West|
|44||New Forest||South East|
|45||Babergh||East of England|
|47||North West Leicestershire||East Midlands|
|48||Hambleton||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|49||South Norfolk||East of England|
|50||Derbyshire Dales||East Midlands|
Rural areas in the north of England tend to receive high ratings on school exam results, environmental measures (such as low population densities and low traffic flows) and lower house prices compared to local earnings.
Rural areas in the south of England typically perform better on average earnings, employment, health and weather.
Employment is highest in Shetland Islands (83.8%) followed by East Northamptonshire (82.0%). Also scoring well are Test Valley (81.4%) and Forest Heath, South Derbyshire and Aberdeenshire (all 80.9%).
Average earnings are highest in Chiltern (£893 per week) followed by Waverley (£857), South Oxfordshire (£825), and East Hertfordshire (£814).
The biggest homes are in Forest of Dean in the South West where the average house in this district has 9.0 rooms followed by Wychavon (7.4) and Derbyshire Dales (7.0).
The lowest percentage of vacant properties is in Waveney (0.1%). Three-quarters of rural local authority areas have 2.0% or less vacant homes.
The most affordable rural local authority district for residential property is Pendle with an average house price to annual gross earnings ratio of 3.5, followed by East Ayrshire (3.7) and North Lincolnshire (3.8).
East Hertfordshire in the East of England has the highest level of good broadband access with 87% having a download speed of at least 2Mbps. Rushcliffe in the East Midlands (86%) and East Hampshire (84%) have the next highest levels.
Traffic flows are lowest in Scotland, which has 8 of the 10 best ranked districts on this measure. The lowest traffic levels are in the Western Isles, the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway and Moray.
The lowest burglary rates per 10,000 households are in the Western Isles (3.8) followed by Orkney Islands (5.0), West Devon (7.8) and North Norfolk (7.9).
The lowest per person CO2 emissions are in East Cambridgshire, South Derbyshire and Waveney (all 2.0 tonnes). Rutland, Tendring and North Kesteven have the next lowest emissions - all three areas emit an average of 2.1 tonnes per person compared with the national average of 2.21 tonnes.
The lowest population density in Britain is in the Western Isles and the Highlands (both have 9 persons per square km). Thanet has the highest density with an average of 1,279 persons per square km.
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