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Viewpoint - 18/02/2014

Regional towns and cities: the ones to watch

London is leading the way out of the UK’s economic gloom but, with a more sustained and widespread revival starting to take shape, the focus is now also on regional locations that can deliver growth.

Find out more

Our newly-published Vitality Index identifies which towns and cities are best-placed to drive the recovery.

Robust and affluent regional locations are a vital element of the UK’s long-term prosperity – providing opportunities for businesses to expand and for successful property development and investment.

Our research took the form of a ‘health check’ of 65 towns and cities around the country. It found that outside Greater London it is the wider South East and the East of England that are currently outperforming the rest of the UK. Cambridge topped our rankings, followed by Guildford, Brighton and St Albans.

What makes a top performer?

The Vitality Index looked at 20 datasets including economic output, general affluence, commercial property data and business activity data in each location. These were then combined with demographic, employment and educational information to form the rankings.

The towns and cities were marked out of 10 for each dataset. Cambridge’s top score of 156 out of 200 was mainly due to its role as a bioscience and technology hub. The city was rated highly in terms of house prices, weekly pay and employment levels, as well as educational attainment and environmental performance. But despite its reputation as having a vibrant business start-up scene, it was rated as only average in terms of new business registrations per capita.

The South dominates

Affluent commuter towns like Guildford and St Albans performed well in the index as did commercial hubs like Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Reading and Maidenhead. The South East and East of England accounted for all but three of the top 10 rankings, with Bournemouth and Warwick among the exceptions. So, too, was Edinburgh which was the only large regional city to make it into the top 10.

Most productive locations

The index was further divided into thematic sub-groups which highlighted particular strengths. For example, the joint most productive location – based on factors such as economic output, business registrations and the proportion of people on job-seekers allowance – was Aberdeen, largely due to its oil revenues.

It was joined by Maidenhead and Wokingham, both at the heart of the UK’s technology cluster in the Thames Valley. The same three locations were also rated as the most entrepreneurial due to their ability to support start-up businesses.

Fastest growing

In the future Milton Keynes will be a place to watch. It was the fastest growing location over the last 10 years, based on economic output, population growth and commercial rents. Also performing well in this category were Basingstoke, Brighton and Cambridge.

Most educated

Educational attainment is an important indicator of future success and the most highly educated locations – taking into account school exam results, the percentage of people with degrees and the presence of a university – were Edinburgh and Guildford. They were closely followed by Reading, Warwick and York.

Who is the greenest?

A wide range of towns and cities featured on the list of greenest locations, assessed using recycling statistics, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Bournemouth came out top and was followed by Ipswich and Southend. Walsall, Gloucester and Reading also recorded good scores.

Most affluent

However, the Most Affluent category, based on house prices, weekly pay and demographics, was dominated by southern locations. The top 10 were all within striking distance of London with the top four made up by the commuter locations of Guildford, Reigate, St Albans and Maidenhead.

Learn more about the index

The Vitality Index will be an ongoing research project. For more details and a copy of the report visit our mini-site.


This article is part of Asset Class winter 2014.


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