Revealed: Quality of our rural life

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:

RankLocal authority districtRegion
1 East Cambridgeshire East of England
2 Wychavon West Midlands
3 South Cambridgeshire East of England
4 East Hertfordshire East of England
5 Waverley South East
6 Aylesbury Vale South East
7 Rushcliffe East Midlands
8 Uttlesford East of England
9 Rutland East Midlands
10 Chiltern South East
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
21 Tandridge South East
22 South Northamptonshire East Midlands
23 West Berkshire South East
24 West Oxfordshire South East
25 Harborough East Midlands
26 St Edmundsbury East of England
27 Selby Yorkshire and the Humber
28 Forest Heath East of England
29 Tewkesbury South West
30 Suffolk Coastal East of England
31 Wealden South East
32 East Hampshire South East
33 Melton East Midlands
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
38 Shepway South East
39 Wiltshire South West
40 Broadland East of England
41 Shetland Islands Scotland
42 South Derbyshire East Midlands
43 East Dorset South West
44 New Forest South East
45 Babergh East of England
46 Aberdeenshire Scotland
47 North West Leicestershire East Midlands
48 Hambleton Yorkshire and the Humber
49 South Norfolk East of England
50 Derbyshire Dales East Midlands
source: Halifax

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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