Harrogate loses Happiest place in UK crown to 'Dad's Army' town

Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Has Harrogate lost its touch? It's certainly lost its crown as the Happiest Place to Live in Britain to a town that's perhaps a little bit Dad's Army.

But fear not, it is still in third top place, though questions are being raised as to how the pride of North Yorkshire managed to lose out to the champions of the south, Leigh-on-Sea, the little-known Essex town.

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

The latest survey of almost 24,000 people across the UK conducted by leading residential property website RightMove found that this small town near Southend rated has an amazingly strong sense of belonging and excellent community spirit.

But has this former hamlet of 22,000 people situated on the northern side of the Thames Estuary really got as much public spirit as Harrogate's and its approximately 75,000 residents?

Leigh may be pretty enough but Harrogate can point to the fact that, while it is a borough, its southern rival is only a town council.

It may be steeped in history, much like Harrogate, but this southern town hasn't even got a mayor!

While Harrogate can boast its nationally-renowned Harrogate International Festival, Leigh has the annual Leigh Regatta, organised by the sea scouts.

Nor does Leigh-on-Sea have the Stray or Bettys or Harrogate Spring Water or William & Vics or the Blues Bar - or the Dales on its doorstep.

What the new Happiest Place to Live in Britain can point to, however, is its proximity to London and nearby grammar schools at Southend and Westcliff and its good access to sports and arts activities.

Perhaps, Harrogate's loss to Leigh is down to a couple of secret weapons the new winners have kept up their sleeves?

While Harrogate's famous sons include actor Jim Carter, who was the butler Mr Carson in Downtown Abbey, Leigh's celebrity roll call includes none other than Dame Helen Mirren - not to forget comedian Phill Jupitus and author John Fowles and gym chain owner David Lloyd.

The final straw may have been that though visitors to Harrogate do occasionally ask where the beach is, the town isn't actually on the coast.

But the name Leigh-on-Sea does its exactly what is says on the tin - it is by the sea and its does have a rather picturesque beach - and working fishing boats.

In one way both towns are similar - property is not cheap, with the average house price in Leigh calculated at approximately £369,698.

As for second-placed Troon in the Happiest Place in Britain survey, well, what has that windswept town of 14,000 residents on the west coast of Scotland got - apart from the Royal Troon golf course?