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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is this the Region’s Top Locale?

WITH is tranquil countryside and friendly towns, Northumberland has always been a popular place to live. And now one rural North East beauty spot has been named as offering the best quality of life in the whole of Northern England.

The borough of Castle Morpeth – which boasts the picturesque communities of Morpeth, Ponteland, Stannington and Hepscott – came 29th in a national poll. People in the area enjoy significantly high levels of employment, health and a low crime rate, while children in the region snap-up some of the best GCSE results in the country.

The beaches around Northumberland’s stunning coastline have also been praised as among the most beautiful in the British Isles.
But, interestingly in a region famed for it’s heritage, the only other North Eastern region to feature on the list is Tynedale, which came 45th in the table, compiled by Halifax.
Paul Johnston, director of customer services at Castle Morpeth Borough council, said the accolade is a tribute to the people of the area, but he said they’re also very aware of the quality of life they enjoy.

“It’s always fantastic to get this kind of accolade, but is it a surprise? I don’t think it’s a surprise,” he said.
“If you were an outsider looking in, you would think whatever it is they’ve got going on there you would want to bottle it up and take it away.
“We’ve got massive attractions like Druridge Bay and the countryside right on our doorsteps, and we regard these highly.
“We’re flattered to be named above other parts of the region but we’re not really concerned about comparing ourselves, we just want to do the best with what we have here.”

However, Coun Harold Forster, leader of Tynedale Council, expressed surprise that Morpeth was flying the flag for the entire region.
He said: “I am surprised there are not more places in the North East being recognised in the report, as it's the vibrant variety of town, county, coast and river, that make North East England a truly great place to live, work, visit and do business.”
In Castle Morpeth, 73.9% of 16-year-olds achieved five or more GCSEs last year, the second highest figure in the poll.
The area also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, with Castle Morpeth Borough Council posting a 17% drop over the last three years.
For overall quality of life, the borough was closely followed by Cheshire, which was 34th, and Hambleton, North Yorkshire, which was 35th. People living in Mid Suffolk have the best quality of life in rural Britain, according to the research. But people can expect to pay a premium to live in the majority of the top rural areas in the country, with homeowners paying an average of £50,692 or 25% more to live in the top areas. At the bottom of the table is Monmouthshire, in Wales, with lower levels of sunshine, income and increased traffic problems.