Beautiful South wipes out Wales, Scotland and North in countryside poll of rural districts with highest living standards

 

Godalming sparked interest in sedate south-west Surrey in 1881 when its townsfolk became the first in the world to benefit from a public supply of electricity.

One hundred and thirty-two years later, the Saxon settlement that lit up the streets is in the news again for the amenities enjoyed by its residents.

Waverley, the local authority district of which Goldalming serves as the headquarters, has been named the area of rural Britain with the highest living standards.

In a further sign of the North-South divide, Scotland and Wales were entirely absent from the Halifax building society's list of the top 50 boroughs and districts.

The Home Counties and the East of England dominated the survey through a winning mixture of good health, low crime and relatively cheap housing. Of the top 10 on the Halifax's list, only two local authorities are from outside southern England: Rushcliffe and South Northamptonshire in the East Midlands. Among the areas checked were wealth – house prices, employment and earnings – and more traditional indicators of quality of life, such as health, life expectancy, exam results and crime rates.

Waverley won no points for supplying electricity, but 97 per cent of its 121,000 residents were in "good health". Residents in Godalming, Farnham and Haslemere and elsewhere in Waverley had wealth too, with an average weekly wage of £888, significantly above the UK average of £609. Employment of almost 80 per cent compares well with the national average.

Crucially, house prices are also relatively affordable at about £325,000, 5.6 times local earnings. Across rural Britain, house prices cost around six times annual earnings. Uttlesford in north-west Essex, home of Saffron Walden, was in second place, followed by neighbouring East Hertfordshire. Sixteen of the top 50 – almost a third – came from the South-east.

Scotland was rated highly for low population density and lack of traffic and, sometimes, crime. The survey found nothing positive to say about Wales.

Rural living the top 10 districts

1 Waverley, South-east

2 Uttlesford, East of England

3 East Hertfordshire, East of England

4 Chiltern, South-east

5 Maldon, East of England

6 South Cambridgeshire, East of England

7 Rushcliffe, East Midlands

8 Vale of White Horse, South-east

9 South Northamptonshire, East Midlands

10 South Oxfordshire, South-east

And the award for most dismal town goes to... Scotland

A former pit community, New Cumnock, was yesterday named Scotland's "most dismal town".

Urban Realm magazine gave the East Ayrshire town its annual Carbuncle award, citing the "haemorrhaging of shops" and "a general absence of maintenance on derelict properties". Even the building of a new primary school had been overshadowed by the threatened closure of the town hall and the sell-off of a church, the Scottish housing specialists said.

New Cumnock, which has 1,800 residents, was hit by the decline of coal mining in the 1980s. Fort William, Motherwell, Kirkintilloch, Newmilns and Paisley were the other towns shortlisted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own