Elmbridge has lost its title as the best place to live in the UK in an annual league table because of high living costs.
The borough had been named the most desirable place to live for the past three years by the Halifax Quality of Life Survey but lost out this year to the district of Hart in Hampshire.
Elmbridge still scored highly, however, ranking second due to the health of its residents, school performance, high employment rates and good weather.
Although Hart was singled out for the high earnings of its residents, who average £841 a week compared with the national average of £606, Elmbridge residents far exceed this with average weekly earnings of £1,127.
The area was marked down for the high cost of living, however. Average house prices are almost eight times annual earnings, compared with the UK average of just over five times.
Roy Green, former Hersham councillor and founder of the Hersham Village Society, said: “Elmbridge is a great place to live but there are two sides to it.
“Everyone thinks it’s a rich area but poverty still exists here. Young people are being forced to move out because there isn’t any affordable housing.
“I love Elmbridge and I’ve lived here all my life; it’s a peaceful place to live with lots of greenery, but there is another side that most of the public don’t see.”
Claygate councillor Steve Wells, who has lived in Elmbridge for 27 years, said: “A lot of wealthy people live in Elmbridge because it’s leafy, it’s got good infrastructure and it’s close to London, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that there are real pockets of poverty.
“When people see wealthy footballers and Russian oligarchs living in the area it creates tensions in the community.”
Elmbridge has become popular among celebrities and the super-rich in recent years, attracting residents such as Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis.
By Jessica Abrahams. Originally published in the Elmbridge Guardian, 3rd January 2012. View here.