Lavenham, Sudbury, Eye and Thurston are the happiest places to live in the UK as Babergh and Mid Suffolk districts top survey
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 December 2014
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If you live in the Mid Suffolk or Babergh districts you are some of the happiest, healthiest and most prosperous people in the UK, according to a new survey.
From Eye to Sudbury, Thurston to Helmingham – the two rural Suffolk districts have been praised in the latest quality of life survey carried out by the Halifax – finding themselves in the top 50 of the best places to live.
The two districts are also the only ones from Suffolk and north Essex to have reached the top 50.
Although Mid Suffolk has slipped from 2013’s ranking of 34 to 45, Babergh has shot ahead to 24th in the country, compared to last year’s 85th place.
The survey works by analysing a range of factors, including life expectancy, life satisfaction, anxiety levels and the number of sunshine hours in a week.
Jennie Jenkins, the leader of Babergh District Council, was delighted with the news.
She said: “Our two rural districts are the only ones in Suffolk mentioned this time around, and have been consistently over the last few surveys.
“Our picturesque villages, excellent job opportunities, amazing heritage assets and stunning landscapes mean that Babergh and Mid Suffolk are finally getting the national accolades they both deserve.”
Babergh’s best scores were for life satisfaction, where it was ranked in the top 10.
It did especially well in that section’s sub-categories for residents’ happiness and feelings of self-worth, according to figures from the national census.
Mid Suffolk scored well for its employment rate of 79.1% and low traffic level figures. Its burglary rate was also one of the lowest in the country.
Derrick Haley, the leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “For both Babergh and Mid Suffolk to be the only districts in Suffolk to be included in this national survey is testament to the beautiful area in which we all live and work.
“I am truly delighted that we are finally getting the national recognition that is so richly deserved. Of course, all of our residents already know what this survey proves – that Mid Suffolk is a great place to live and work.”
Elsewhere in Suffolk, St Edmundsbury came in 68th place, Suffolk Coastal in 93rd and Forest Heath was in 243rd. The Halifax only released statistics for the top 250 places in the country and this has not included Ipswich or Waveney.
In north Essex, Colchester Borough was 87th and Braintree District was 141th. No districts from Norfolk made the top 50.
Top of all the districts was Hart, in Hampshire, which was in first place for the fourth year in a row.
There are few prettier villages in Suffolk than Debenham.
Richard Blackwell, pictured, the parish chairman, said what made the Mid Suffolk village a special place to live was its community spirit, something typified with its some 100 organisations.
He said: “In Debenham, what we regard as particularly good is the community spirit. People who come here to view houses from outside the village nearly always comment about how friendly the place is – people go out of their way to help them and tell them something about the place.”
One of the most praised organisations has been The Debenham Project, a voluntary-led group, which supports dementia sufferers and their families.
Mr Blackwell added: “We have got two good schools which attract people to the area, there is quite a good range of shops, you could be independent and live in Debenham and not have to go outside the village.
“A lot of people have been residents for a long time and do not want to move away – that speaks volumes.”
Lavenham may be a big draw for tourists seeking a model example of Suffolk life but behind the attractive houses lie people who share strong ties, according to parish chairman Carroll Reeve.
One of the initiatives he picked out was the Good Neighbourhood Scheme. Although it is only about a year old it can, for a small charge, provide people with transport to hospital appointments – one of several services it provides.
Mr Reeve said: “In Lavenham we have got a good balance of shops, we have got a community that’s quite involved and there are lots of clubs and societies. There is also a very active village hall where for instance where people can go on a Thursday afternoon for a coffee and a biscuit and talk to someone.
“We are an ageing population, over 30% of people in Lavenham are over 65 which is something we recognise.
“Overall people are trying to look out for other people, I suppose that’s what comes out of all of these initiatives.
“I know there are people who are isolated but they need not be, the provision is there if you access it and you are aware about it.”
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