Peak District becomes an unlikely magnet for Britain's wealthy

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The Independent Online

With the notable exception of the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, who spent a fortune developing the place as a spa in the 18th century, the Derbyshire town of Buxton has not been overrun with wealthy local benefactors.

With the notable exception of the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, who spent a fortune developing the place as a spa in the 18th century, the Derbyshire town of Buxton has not been overrun with wealthy local benefactors.

But now Buxton and the surrounding towns which make up the High Peak parliamentary constituency are attracting wealthy residents faster than any other area in Britain.

The constituency, in the heart of the Peak District National Park, saw a 68 per cent rise in the number of residents earning more than £60,000 a year in the past 12 months, according to a survey by Barclays.

Nearly 6 per cent of the population of the High Peak, the setting for ITV's medical drama Peak Practice, is now in this income bracket.

With a 66 per cent increase, the quiet Welsh market town of Monmouth boasts the second fastest accumulation of "affluentials", as Barclays describes the £60k-plus group.

Despite a census analysis by the University of Sheffield last week which suggested that London and the South-east continue to accumulate all Britain's power and prosperity, the top seven fastest-growing affluent areas are all outside London. Cardiff North, which includes the Castell Coch in Tongwynlais, is third, ahead of the leafy south Manchester suburb of Withington and multicultural Keighley in west Yorkshire.

In the South-east, Watford, in Hertfordshire, makes its first showing at sixth place with Dartford, in Kent, seventh. The Barclays survey has a history of revealing the regional subtleties of personal earnings and its table of "affluentials" again turns up some surprises.

The Sheffield district of Hallam, which also backs on to the Peak District, rose to 11th place with 11.8 per cent reaching the £60k figure against 7.9 per cent last year. That figure trumps places like Twickenham (10.8 per cent), Buckingham (10.5 per cent) and Sevenoaks (10.1 per cent). Tatton, the Cheshire constituency covering affluent south Manchester commuter towns like Alderley Edge and Wilmslow, features 27th - with a 10 per cent rating.

The most affluent area in the UK remains Kensington and Chelsea in west London, where 16.6 per cent of the population earn more than £60,000 a year and the cost of a terraced house currently stands at £1.5m.

Second were the cities of London and Westminster, which moved up into second place with 14.2 per cent, followed by Richmond Park (13.9 per cent) and Hampstead and Highgate (13.5 per cent).

"The High Peak's position may be unexpected but like all the top 10 fastest growing towns (by affluency) it is desirable and rural yet also commutable, sandwiched as it is between Sheffield and Manchester," said Andrew McDougall of Barclays.

"If they can work from home, people are thinking why not relocate somewhere which is nice, rather than work from a back room in a London suburb.

"In places like Withington, we are seeing student communities giving rise to a good social scene which is encouraging earners to move in. Of course £60,000 a year is only a relatively good salary if you are already on the property ladder."

Barclays calculates there are more than 1.5 million "affluentials" in England and Wales and 29 areas have more than one in 10 people earning more than £60,000 per year, compared to just eight in 2003. The bank argues their spending clout "gives them enormous power over setting trends and influencing the way we all live".

The bank's study was based on its eight million current account customers. Barclays also examined where there were significant numbers of under-30s earning more than £60,000. It found a near doubling in Hallam, from 1.3 per cent to 3.6 per cent, a figure which takes the district up 66 places to 85th in the national table. And nearly half of Twickenham's wealthy population is now under 30.

But the prize for most modesty went to the town of Buxton. "Our population has not palpably increased and we've not reached a full understanding of all this just yet," said a spokeswoman. "We just think ours is a great place to live."

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