The best place to live in the UK

Updated on 17 December 2016 | 22 Comments

Halifax crunches the numbers for its annual Quality of Life survey.

Winchester has been named the most desirable place to live in the UK, by the latest Halifax Quality of Life Survey.

The annual survey – now in its 10th year –  compares areas in the UK against a range of 26 variables across eight broad categories made up of employment, housing, urban environment, weather, health, education, personal well-being and for the first time leisure, which includes the number of pubs and the availability of health clubs and leisure centres.

Winchester, scored highly on all of these – but living there is not cheap.

Average house prices in the area are 9.7 times the average annual pre-tax income of the local people. That’s much higher than the national average of 7.2.

The top 10 places to live

Here are the 10 local authority districts that have been rated best for quality of life in the Halifax survey.


Local Authority




South East


Orkney Islands




West Midlands


Derbyshire Dales

East Midlands



Yorkshire and the Humber


South Cambridgeshire

East of England



South West


St Albans

East of England



South East



South East

Source: Halifax Quality of Life Survey 2016

The top 10 has experienced a significant shakeup since last year, with last year’s winner Hart dropping to 26th place.

Halifax says this is thanks to the inclusion of leisure for the first time and its two new categories of pubs and fitness centres as well as some methodological changes in the ONS Personal Well-Being Survey, which is one of the data sources the survey uses to rank the areas.

Hart has also performed less well relative to other areas for average earnings and employment– categories the area normally scores highly for.

North/South divide

Areas in the South East make up two thirds of the list, with 32 making it into the top 50, up from 27 last year.

Southern areas tended to have higher ratings for weekly earnings as well as better weather, health, and life expectancy, while Northern areas scored well on education (in terms of grades and small class sizes), lower house prices in relation to earnings and lower traffic flows.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Orkney Islands in northern Scotland have taken second place in the top 50 this year, a significant achievement considering it was 83rd in last year’s survey.

The area scored highly on employment (87.6%), health and safety with the lowest burglary rate in the UK per 10,000 people at 2.3 compared to the nationwide average of 28.7. The Orkneys were also top for the highest per pupil spend at £9,281 compared to UK average of £4,626.

Other areas of Scotland also scored highly for employment and education. 

The Shetland Islands had the highest employment rate overall with 89.4% of residents in work compared to 73.7% nationwide.

The Western Isles had the lowest number of pupils in primary school classes at 17 compared to the UK average of 26.9. The area also boasts the best secondary school pupil to teacher ratio at 13.6 compared to 20.7 nationwide.

East Dunbartonshire had the highest percentage of 15 year olds with five or more SCQFs at grade A-C at 97.9% against the national average GCSE measure of 70.1%.

No area of Northern Ireland made it into the top 50 this year.

The highest ranking Northern Ireland location in the survey was Mid and East Antrim which came 183rd with people in the area reporting high levels of personal well-being.

Adults in Mid and East Antrim Northern Ireland have the highest average rating for life satisfaction in the survey at 8.4 compared to a UK average of 7.7.

People here were also the joint happiest (along with the Western Isles in Scotland) at 8.2 compared to the UK average of 7.5 and had the highest average feeling of what they do being worthwhile at 8.6 compared to 7.9 nationwide.

Other category winners

The highest weekly average earnings are in Kensington & Chelsea, at £1,273 per week. The UK average is just over half of that at £646 per week.

The biggest homes were in Uttlesford in Essex, Chiltern in South Buckinghamshire and Rutland in the East Midlands, which all had an average of 6.4 habitable rooms compared to a national average of 5.5.

The lowest average house price to earnings ratio was in Copeland at 3.6 compared to a national average of 7.2.

Newcastle, Liverpool. Leicester, Norwich, Brent in London and Southampton had the best access to superfast broadband. This is measured by the proportion of premises able to receive speeds of at least 5Mbps.

The City of London boasts the largest proportion of adults with the highest level of qualification. A whopping 94.8% of residents here hold a degree, NVQ level 4 (and above) or a professional qualification. The UK average is just 35.6%.

The healthiest district was Hart with 97.4% residents rating themselves as in good or fairly good health.

Life expectancy at birth for males is highest in Kensington and Chelsea at 83.3 years compared to the UK average of 79.5 years. For females it is joint highest in Chiltern in South Buckinghamshire and Camden in London at 86.7 years, compared to a national average of 83.2 years.

The sunniest place in the UK is still the Isle of Wight, which enjoys on average 36.9 hours of sunshine a week. The national average is 29.7 hours.

But it rains the least in Castle Point in Essex with 525mm average annual rainfall recorded versus an average 869.9mm per year for the whole of the UK.

When it comes to leisure Eden in Cumbria is the best places to unwind. It has the highest number of pubs per 10,000 people at 28.3 compared to a UK average of 10.1. However, Cornwall comes out top when looking at the total number of pubs in a local authority with 620.

While Islington in London was found to have the highest number of fitness and health clubs per 10,000 people at 6.3 compared to 1.4 nationwide.

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