North-South divide as region’s rural districts lose out on quality of life

Fremington Edge, looking from Grinton Moor in Swaledale .
Fremington Edge, looking from Grinton Moor in Swaledale .
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Rural communities in the North of England are being outperformed by their southern counterparts when it comes to quality of life, a new survey has revealed.

A list of the top 50 rural places to live in Britain compiled by Halifax was dominated again this year by the South East and the East of England.

John Blackie  walking through  Gunnerside in Upper Swaledale   (GL100286g)

John Blackie walking through Gunnerside in Upper Swaledale (GL100286g)

The two regions together claimed 24 of the top 50 spots, compared to just five for Yorkshire and the Humber and none for other regions in northern England.

Rutland was said to have the highest standard of living in Halifax’s Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey, with Chiltern and Uttlesford ranked second and third.

The highest-rated Yorkshire districts were Hambleton, Richmondshire and Selby in 22nd, 23rd and 24th place respectively. Ryedale was 36th and East Riding of Yorkshire 39th.

In response, Richmondshire council leader John Blackie praised the quality of life in his district, but said better broadband access was needed to help bring better quality jobs to rural areas.

He said: “There is a wonderful quality of life but you can’t eat the view. You do need those other support mechanisms to underpin the quality of life. You need housing that you can afford, you need quality jobs, local services delivered locally for local people.

“They are doing much better on those issues in the South and East than we are doing up in the North.”

According to Halifax, southern areas tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health, and life expectancy in the survey.

Northern districts score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, and lower traffic flows.

Mr Blackie, who will attempt to succeed William Hague as Richmond MP while standing as an independent next month, added: “There is a North-South divide and an urban-rural divide, if you are not careful you can end up on the wrong side of the bar on both of these. If you are living in the North and a rural area, austerity has the potential of unfortunately scorching the earth of our rural areas and our young families unless we do something about it.”

Halifax’s survey is based on local performance across indicators covering the labour market, the housing market, the environment, education, health and personal well-being.

Aside from Rutland, other areas away from southern England in the top 50 included the Orkney Islands in Scotland and Monmouthshire in Wales. The survey noted that one of the lowest ratios of average house prices to local earnings was in the East Riding of Yorkshire.