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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Emma Magnus

Happiest place to live 2022: Riverside area takes top London spot — again

Richmond upon Thames has been named London’s happiest place to live for the eighth consecutive year.

The south-west London borough is famous for its green spaces —such as the 2,500-acre, deer-filled Richmond Park and Kew Gardens— riverside pubs and the 82,000-seat Twickenham Stadium.

Favoured by the likes of Holly Willoughby, Sir David Attenborough and Tom Hardy, it has long been one of London’s most desirable places to live, topping Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index for the past eight years.

The study, which has run for 11 years, measures the impact of factors such as a sense of belonging, access to green spaces and strong community on overall happiness. The top spot across Great Britain this year is Cornwall’s St Ives, followed by Galashiels in Scotland and Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Overall, Richmond ranks as the 11th happiest place to live in Great Britain and is the only place in London to make the top 20. Last year, Richmond was in second place nationally.

Personal factors — such as having friendly neighbours and a sense of belonging — are playing an increasingly important role in residents’ happiness, explains Tim Bannister of Rightmove.

“This year’s Happy at Home survey really shows that the things that make people happy to live in their area are not so much the physical aspects of that area but more the personal aspects, such as our sense of belonging, the community and the people.

“The last few months have undoubtedly been difficult for many, and as we learned during another difficult period in 2020, this is often when we look to our local area and community for support and happiness,” says Bannister.

Why Richmond?

Deer in Richmond Park (REUTERS)

According to Rightmove, Richmond’s sport and recreational facilities and access to green space and nature are key to the happiness of its residents.

“It comes as no surprise to see Richmond being crowned happiest place to live in London yet again,” says Xavier Marqués-Wicks of Chestertons estate agency in Richmond, who has lived in the borough for most of his life and has worked as an agent there for 17 years.

“It’s a very pretty area. It’s your classic urban village with a huge amount of green space right on the doorstep. Richmond Park is beautiful, and the Thames Towpath has some of the prettiest stretches of the River Thames.

“It provides a very comfortable lifestyle for people — you can have that country, outdoors lifestyle, or the urban, city lifestyle. You can do both from Richmond.”

The borough’s good transport links and schools are also key to its enduring appeal, particularly amongst families, argues Marqués-Wicks. Amongst its long-standing residents, Richmond is popular with young professionals looking to move to the suburbs to start a family — a trend that has intensified since the pandemic. “But once people are here, they don’t tend to move out of the borough. Once a house is bought here, it doesn’t usually come up for a long time.”

Richmond is one of the capital’s most expensive areas to buy a property, with homes costing £935,644 on average, according to Rightmove’s most recent figures.

Despite increasing demand for properties in the borough and limited development opportunities, however, prices remain more stable than almost everywhere else in London. “It’s not a new area that has suddenly trebled in value. It’s much more established — there’s a lot of old money here. It’s perceived to be a safe haven in terms of money if you’re buying a house,” says Marqués-Wicks.

London’s happiest areas

After Richmond, Islington is London’s second happiest area, followed by Westminster and Wandsworth, ranked at 49th, 51st and 53rd nationally.

This year’s data for the capital suggests that inner London boroughs are becoming happier places to live. Last year, Bromley, Kingston upon Thames and Wandsworth were ranked as the happiest areas after Richmond, whilst this year, Islington, Westminster, Southwark and Camden have all climbed up the list.

Rightmove’s results show that Islington is favoured for its access to restaurants and shops, while Westminster residents also scored their area highly for this and for the provision of essential services like doctors and schools.

These are also some of the most expensive areas in the capital to buy a home. Westminster is London’s second-priciest borough after Kensington and Chelsea, with properties costing an average of £1,458,992. Camden is in third place, with the average home costing £1,073,183. In Wandsworth, properties cost £824,945, followed by £796,579 in Islington.

There is also a correlation between affordability and happiness levels on the other side of the table. Barking and Dagenham ranks as London’s least happy borough, and it is also the place where property prices are lowest, at £375,517 on average.

Newham and Enfield, where properties cost £467,883 and £513,295 respectively, sit above Barking and Dagenham in Rightmove’s study.

So, does money buy happiness?

“I’m sure money helps,” says Marqués-Wicks about Richmond, although he puts its consistently high happiness scores down to other factors. “I’d put it more down to the area. Geographically, it’s a nice place to spend your days off; to bring up your children…It’s about the lifestyle it provides. It’s very green, very scenic, which is good for everyone’s happiness.”

Outside London

In 2021, commuter towns like Guildford, Horsham, St Alban’s and Hitchin were all in the top 20 happiest areas to live in the UK. This year, they no longer feature in the top spots, as remote and hybrid work becomes increasingly common. According to Rightmove, 65% of respondents said they were able to work from home, allowing buyers and renters to be more flexible in their search for a property.

Alongside Richmond, St Ives, Hexham, Harrogate, Leamington Spa and Perth are consistently among the happiest places to live. Paul Le Bas, Sales Business Development Manager at Millerson, credits St Ives’ success to the quality of life: “St Ives has a vibrant and active local community that during the winter months enjoy all the local clubs and leisure facilities.

“During the summer months we get to enjoy the three award-winning beaches and great surf at Porthmeor whilst joining in with the holiday makers. All year round we are able to visit the amazing restaurants and café bars most of which are highly rated in the national press. The coastal walks are second to none…As the seasons change, so does the town.”

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