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20 December 2014, 07:39
Nestled in the north-east corner of Hampshire, the tranquil district of Hart has been crowned as the place with the best quality of life in the UK for the fourth year in a row.
Elmbridge in Surrey and Winchester, which is also in Hampshire, came second and third on the annual "top 50'' list compiled by Halifax - which was once again dominated by areas in the South East of England.
Scotland got a look in at number 47 with the Orkney Islands, while Hambleton in Yorkshire was the only place in Northern England on the list, scraping in at number 50.
Two London boroughs made the top 50. They were Richmond upon Thames, in 15th place with residents being able to enjoy scenic river walkways and nearby attractions such as the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as well as Kensington and Chelsea, placed at number 34.
People living in Kensington and Chelsea have the highest average weekly earnings in the study, at £1,372 per week, which is more than double the national average.
Nowhere in Wales, Northern Ireland or the South West of England made the top 50. Within Wales, Monmouthshire had the highest ranking, coming at number 98 overall in the survey, while the place that was ranked the highest in Northern Ireland was Fermanagh at number 138.
South Gloucestershire was named as the South West's most desirable region and was ranked at 60 overall.
The Halifax Quality of Life Survey placed Hart at the top spot once again as it scored highly on a number of measures, including residents' health and well being, education, employment levels, low crime rates, good weather and good broadband access.
The report, which is the ninth that Halifax has produced, crunches statistics from various sources to come up with an overall measure quality of life. Its sources include Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, figures from various government departments and information from the Met Office.
Hart, which is centred on the town of Fleet, boasts vast open spaces of heathland and woodland as well as Hampshire's largest freshwater lake.
More than 97% of Hart residents report being in good health. The average weekly wage in Hart is £839, which is one third more than the UK average of £629.
Hart inhabitants enjoy 32.5 hours of sunshine per week compared with the national average of 29.5 hours, as well as a high employment rate, with four out of five 16 to 64-year-olds in work. The average life expectancy in Hart is the joint highest in the UK, with the male population typically living to the age of 83.
But Hart residents pay a premium to live there. Average house prices in Hart cost nearly seven and-a-half times the typical local income.
Nipping at Hart's heels is Elmbridge, which has moved up to second place from sixth position last year. In previous years, Elmbridge - where average weekly earnings stand at £1,104 - has topped the quality of life survey four times.
Other big climbers up the list compared with last year include Rutland, which has jumped 17 places to number four, Chiltern, which has risen 10 places to number five, Warwick, which has moved from number 42 in 2013 to 11th place and Richmond (15), which was at 54 last year.
Halifax said that the personal well-being of adults in these areas appears to have generally improved since 2013, helping them to climb the rankings - with residents reporting that they are more satisfied, happy and less anxious about their lives.
Martin Ellis, an economist at Halifax, said Hart has made a "remarkable achievement'' to come out top for four years in a row.
He continued: "A regional comparison shows many areas in southern England score strongly in categories such as the labour markets and health.
"Northern areas tend to perform well on education and lower house prices in relation to earnings.
"In Scotland and Wales, several areas enjoy low traffic flows and burglary rates.''
The report also found that:
:: Employment is highest in Eden in Cumbria, at 87.0%, ahead of Dacorum in Hertfordshire at 85.4%.
:: The biggest homes are in Uttlesford in Essex, Chiltern in South Buckinghamshire and Rutland in the East Midlands, which all typically have 6.4 habitable rooms.
:: Four areas in the top 250 in the country have an average house price to earnings ratio at or below the historic UK average of 4.0. They are Omagh, Fermanagh, North Lincolnshire and the Western Isles.
:: The Western Isles and Highlands have the lowest population density, with nine people per square kilometre, compared with a UK average of 264.
:: The sunniest place in the UK is the Isle of Wight, where residents enjoy an average of 36.9 hours sunshine a week.
:: Male life expectancy is highest in Hart and South Cambridgeshire at 83 years. The UK average is 79.3 years.
:: People aged over 16 years old in Antrim in Northern Ireland have the highest average rating for life satisfaction in the UK. Based on a score out of 10, the adults in Antrim had an average rating of 8.8.The UK average is 7.5.
Here are the top 20 local authority districts in the UK with the highest quality of life in 2014, according to Halifax:
1. Hart, South East
2. Elmbridge, South East
3. Winchester, South East
4. Rutland, East Midlands
5. Chiltern, South East
6. Uttlesford, East of England
7. South Northamptonshire, East Midlands
8. Rushcliffe, East Midlands
9. Wokingham, South East
10. Waverley, South East
11. Warwick, West Midlands
12. St Albans, East of England
13. South Cambridgeshire, East of England
14. Sevenoaks, South East
15. Richmond upon Thames, London
16. Bracknell Forest, South East
17. Mid Sussex, South East
18. Huntingdonshire, East of England
19. Mole Valley, South East
20. Surrey Heath, South East