Best places to live in the UK? Rugby's now one of them!
Ladies and gentlemen, take a bow. It's official. When it comes to quality of life, we live in one of the best boroughs in the whole of the UK.
It’s always been easy to find fault with life in Rugby but also, as we’ve seen in numerous ways this year, people have been willing to stand up and fight for what they think makes it special.
Throw these two sides of the coin up in the air and you find Rugby landing at number 32 in the Halifax Quality of Life Survey for 2016 – a new entry – and singled out by much of the national media as one of the few places outside the south of England to make the elite top 50.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Stratford-on-Avon District is ahead of us in the charts at number 21 – but don’t forget our two districts meet just a couple of miles north-east of Southam.
But then look at some of our other neighbours.
Warwick District with its county town history and castle, along with Leamington with its Parade and Kenilworth with its own castle and sense of grandeur. Number 40 last year. Not on the list this year.
Harborough district with Market Harborough as its main town, full of independent shops and the birthplace of the Joules brand. Way behind Rugby at number 46.
And looking further afield, Rugby’s placing also puts it above renowned destinations like Harrogate, Vale of the White Horse, and Reigate and Banstead in leafy Surrey.
So perhaps this festive season is a time to take stock of what we’ve got, what we’re fighting for and what we could do better.
The survey was carried out by the Halifax. Its analysis looked at a range of factors which added up to a measure of quality of life.
The 26 indicators were based on eight groups: Labour – which covered employment, wages and qualifications; housing; urban environment; physical environment; health; education; personal wellbeing; and leisure.
The final category was a new one this year to reflect work-life balance, with a measure of the number of pubs and leisure centres.
Cynics might say Rugby’s long-standing reputation for a good number of pubs explains the borough’s rise to fame but that falls into the same old trap of running us down – Rugby had to score well across the board to end up at number 32.
The recent opening of World Rugby’s Hall of Fame has been a powerful statement of the town’s unique standing as birthplace of the game but there are other factors to shout about.
Perhaps the boundary signs should also say home to some of the finest schools in the whole country – we don’t often talk about it but across the state and independent sectors that’s what we’ve got.
The River Avon made famous by Stratford runs through Rugby but how often do we drive past the Avon Mill pub without making the connection?
To the rivers add the canal links, Draycote Water and all the countryside around.
No wonder three of the big battles of the year, Oakfield Rec, Rokeby Field and the big developments in the draft Local Plan have the issue of open space at their heart.
That access to open space and preserving green spaces is nimbyism to some and quality of life to others. What is certain is the borough will continue to grow and there are further rounds to come on all those battles in 2017.
But for now it’s a celebration of the good news and further evidence has come from the world of business, with more flag-waving from the former leader of the borough council Craig Humphrey.
As managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub – which helps businesses find the support available in the region – he has hailed the results of another survey which shows that Rugby is booming when it comes to new businesses getting started.
The results of the work by BankSearch – which by coincidence is based in Rugby – puts the borough ninth out of the 326 English districts for start-up activity.
It shows a 12.6 per cent rise on the number of new businesses established – up to 65 – compared with the previous 12 months at a time when there was a slight drop nationally.
Mr Humphrey said: “Rugby is, in my view, now really making the most of its links to the sport with the creation of the new World Rugby Hall of Fame and that is really helping perceptions.
“There has never been any doubt about its location or its connectivity – it really is as good as it gets – and I think the country is really starting to wake up to what a great place this is to do business.
“Judging by the number of start-up businesses in Rugby, entrepreneurs clearly feel that it’s the ideal location to set-up and achieve growth.”
The top three areas for growth were property, professional services and support activities; transport, storage and communication; and wholesale and retail trade.
The Growth Hub, the Chamber and FSB, the Federation of Small Businesses are all key players in supporting new businesses.