Sought-after, safe and super-connected... why one council wants to emulate idyllic Uttlesford
So why would anyone want to go to Uttlesford?
Almost 40 miles north-east of London, its main town is Saffron Walden. But while hardly the best-known area of England, that may be just how the folk living there like it. With a population of 72,000, divided into 27 wards, Uttlesford has been ranked the second most desirable place to live in the UK - and best rural place to live in the two most recent national Halifax Quality of Life surveys (after Hart in Hampshire).
The annual appraisals take a wide range of factors into account, including health and life expectancy, crime rate, weather, employment, school results, broadband access, and personal well-being.
Also this year Uttlesford authority came second in a list of Britain's 20 best councils in a Daily Telegraph article which considered where homeowners "are likely to get the benefit of good local services".
Essex County Council itself conducts an annual tracker survey which also puts Uttlesford on top. It scored best in Essex for satisfaction in feeling safe (95%), the local area as a place to live (90%) and self-rated good health (76%), while more than 83% said they were satisfied with life in general.
Which are all among the factors why Antrim and Newtownabbey council opted for Uttlesford for their two-night fact-finding trip last week.
Council leader Howard Rolfe said: "Uttlesford continues to get positive feedback, whether from national newspapers and surveys, or more local surveys such as the Essex Tracker - these are results that we should all be proud of.
"However, we cannot be complacent and must strive to make sure that Uttlesford remains a great place to live."
The council also performed well in the so-called Citizens' Panel survey, scoring an overall approval rating of 78%. The study, conducted twice a year, is used to monitor customer satisfaction of the authority's services.