Pride of the north: Leeds is best place to live in UK

Leeds was once the living embodiment of the adage it is "grim up north", with its bleak, industrial wasteland and depressed economy.

But the West Yorkshire city has emerged from the shadows of its industrial past after being named as the best place to live in Britain. Residents have been described as the happiest in the UK's cities, having obtained an enviably balanced quality of life, says a report published today.

Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield ranked close behind Leeds. But in a stark reversal of stereotypes, London defied its traditional image as the most sophisticated city in the country by falling to sixth place.

The study examined the professional and recreational practices of more than 1,000 residents of eight cities aged 15 to 35. The aim of the survey, Urban Behaviours by Henley Management College, was to gauge city-dwellers' quality of life across the country. Their views on issues such as public transport, retail and sporting facilities, cleanliness and entertainment, were used to determine the best place to live.

The study found Leeds was the city with the highest percentage of residents who were happy; 65 per cent described their quality of life as "excellent" compared with 64 per cent of residents in Birmingham, 63 per cent in Liverpool and 59 per cent in Manchester. London ranked the highest of cities in Britain's south. Fifty-five per cent of Londoners described their quality of life as excellent. Many of them praised the entertainment available, but the advantages of theatres, restaurants and clubs were overridden by poor public services, such as transport, the report says.

Leeds has changed beyond recognition from 20 years ago, with its booming real estate market, designer boutiques, smart restaurants, a thriving bar culture, a Harvey Nichols and a Selfridges. Its status as an up-and-coming city was also supported earlier this year when it was hailed by the magazine,Conde Nast Traveller, as the best city in the UK. Where it used to be mostly students who moved to Leeds from the country's south, a growing number of professionals are choosing to move there in a bid to obtain a better quality of life.

The study also looked at the traditional divide between the north and south of England in terms of motivations and life priorities. It found that work was more of a defining factor in the south, where 40 per cent of residents were motivated by their professional lives, compared to one in five residents in the north.

The report placed people in five categories. "The transitory balanced" were described as those having the best work-life balance and were mostly in the north.

"Party animals" were found to be city-dwellers whose sole professional motivation was to fund their social lives. They also tend to live mostly in the north.

The "live to work" were consumed by the careers in many aspects of their lives and typically lived in the south.

"Hearth lovers", who mostly wished to spend time in their homes, were spread across the country, as were the "have it alls", who gave equal precedence to both their personal, family and professional lives.

The report said: "These findings challenge the more traditional strategies of segmentation based on age and demographics, and provide us with a more realistic and commercially relevant representation of the trends and behaviours."

THE FAVOURITE URBAN AREAS

1: Leeds
2: Birmingham
3: Liverpool
4. Manchester
5. Sheffield
6. London
7. Leicester
8. Bristol

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