Where to move to in 2019: Leigh-on-Sea named as the happiest place to live in Britain
The only way is Essex if you want to be happy, according to Rightmove. The coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea, which sits on the Thames estuary as it meets the channel, has been named the happiest place to live for the second time in three years.
Dating back to Saxon times, Leigh-on-Sea is still an active fishing town with well-established events such as the Leigh Regatta and Leigh Folk Festival.
This year it has robbed the title off Leamington Spa — the 2017 winner of the Rightmove Happy at Home Index.
Actress Helen Mirren of Prime Suspect and Calendar Girls was raised in the waterside town which pipped runners up Farnham in Surrey and Monmouth in Wales to first place.
21,000 people voted in the annual ranking which is based on 12 happiness factors including community spirit, safety and cultural activities.
“Leigh-on-Sea is the hidden jewel on the Essex coastline, a far cry from the industrial landscape of Tilbury Docks but tucked away from the bright lights, arcades and tourist attractions of nearby Southend,” says property expert Russell Quirk.
“It offers a relaxed pace of life with traditional fish and chip shops, seafront pubs, great restaurants and bars, and appeals to retirees, families, and even single professionals,” he adds.
The average house price is around £380,000, and a detached property will cost roughly £500,000. It has become a “commuter hub in its own right,” according to Quirk with prices around 40 per cent cheaper than London.
Direct trains can take you to Fenchurch Street in an hour and the nearby Tilbury to Gravesend ferry crossing gives access to Kent.
There is also a passenger service between Southend and the Isle of Sheppey.
Best of the rest
Farnham bagged second place. It’s famed for wedding and events venue Farnham Castle, at the top of historic Castle Street which is lined with Georgian townhouses.
The Surrey town is a sought after commuter destination popular with young families moving out of London looking to try and buy in the tight catchment area of South Farnham junior school.
“Regular trains keep people connected to Guildford and London with a fast commute time, but as you look around the town you see bow-fronted shops, country views and cobbled streets. The south coast and areas of outstanding beauty are only short drive away,” says Wendy Thompson of Strutt & Parker.
“We tick every box — from monthly farmers’ markets selling organic produce, to hearty pubs and a popular creative art centre with activities for all ages,” she adds.
Smaller towns dominated the top ten happiest places to live: each with a population of less than 60,000 people.
Places in the South East also featured prominently with Newbury in Berkshire at number six and Tunbridge Wells in Kent ninth happiest spot.
The rest of the top ten was made up of Monmouth, Leamington Spa, Christchurch, Macclesfield, Hitchin and Kendal.
“This year a sense of belonging has become the biggest driver of happiness. The survey suggests that people think highly of a thriving community spirit, which could explain why the top 10 are all smaller places,” says Miles Shipside, housing market expert at Rightmove.