Proud champions of the Ribble Valley are cock-a-hoop after a national survey named the area as second-best place to live in the entire UK.
They declared “it’s no surprise to us” after the survey, which balances affordability of housing with life satisfaction, featured in the national news and went viral on the internet.
Only the Cumbrian borough of Allerdale – which incorporates Workington, Cockermouth, Maryport and Wigton – managed to top the Ribble Valley in the survey by estate agents Hampton International based on findings in the Life Satisfaction Index from the Office of National Statistics.
Third placed was the borough of Copeland, centred on Whitehaven, Cumbria
“Housing markets close to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty top the list as happiest and affordable places to live,” said Johnny Morris, head of residential research for Hamptons.
“Life in the country, a good view and not too many neighbours seem to be the secret formula to happiness.”
The only real surprise is that we’re second and not firstMP Nigel Evans
The latest survey comes soon after a Halifax bank study named Ribble Valley tops in its “Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey”, The Times placed Clitheroe as the eighth best market town to live and Whalley was in the Sunday Times Top 10 Places to Live in the UK.
The Mayor of the Ribble Valley, Coun. Bridget Hilton, is well qualified to sing the area’s praises, as she was born in Northern Ireland and lived in Rochdale, Kensington and Surrey before coming to the area 33 years ago.
She said: “I would endorse the survey results whole-heartedly.
“As an example, my son was born and brought up here, he went to university and has lived in places including Leeds and Manchester, but now he wants come back to the Valley.
“People who have an impression of Lancashire as dusty old mill towns are surprised at how beautiful Ribble Valley is. There’s also the warmth of the people here. They’re incredibly friendly.”
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “The only real surprise is that we’re second and not first. Anyone who lives in the area knows there are so many pluses, with the wonderful rolling countryside, 30-plus villages, fantastic schools, tremendous hotels, restaurants and bars, amazing shops and great town centres in Clitheroe, Whalley and Longridge. It’s absolutely superb, with low levels of crime and families who have lived here for generations. People who live here want to stay, and those who move away pine to come back. And let’s not forget, it’s one of the Queen’s favourite places.”
Heritage expert Simon Entwistle, who runs Top Hat Tours from Clitheroe, said: “I make my living mainly from conducting tourist coach tours in the beautiful Ribble Valley and I’ve seen business increasing all the time.
“When I went to London with the Lancashire and Blackpool tourism people, there were still people who thought of Lancashire as clogs, cloth caps and mills.
“But you could take Ribble Valley and put it in the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands and it wouldn’t be out of place.
“There’s a great atmosphere in Clitheroe. I enjoy the pub scene in the town, where it’s great to see people out enjoying themselves.”
The Hamptons survey asked residents in each area how satisfied they are with their lives and asked to score it from 1 to 10.
Combined with house prices figures and average incomes, Ribble Valley scored 7.8 out of 10 for happiness and an average house price to income ratio of 3.6.
Table-topping Allerdale’s satisfaction rating was equal to Ribble Valley’s on 7.8 out of 10, but the house price ratio was slightly more affordable at 3.4.
Estate agent Ian Lloyd, of Mortimers, said: “Everybody who has lived in this area as long as I have knows how nice a place it is.
“Houses are becoming in reach for first-time buyers as lenders offer 90 and 95 per cent mortgages again. We’re seeing the best market conditions for six years.
“In the short term, the market is being flooded as most developers take houses in part-exchange to resell.
“The onset of 5,000 new homes will quell house price increases. I’m in favour of a bit of growth, as I think most people in the Ribble Valley would want their children to be able to get on the property ladder.
“One thing that concerns me is the lack of new properties for retirees, or ‘last-time’ buyers. They may want to downsize from, say a four-bedroom detached to a bungalow, but there are no new bungalows. The Government can compel developers to build affordable homes, and maybe they should compel them to build for retirees.”