From the BBC
The places with highest levels of life satisfaction tend to be larger than a small town but smaller than a city.
The happiest places of all, it turns out, are larger rural or market towns.
The government analysis suggests some of the benefits of market town living be "designed into" other communities. Among the official advice to ministers is the delivery of public services in ways which meet people's needs for social contact - fewer call centres, more real people, perhaps - creating thriving high streets and promoting volunteering.
Above all, it seems, the secret of market towns' high well-being levels is their sense of distinct identity, community spirit and perfect size - small enough for people to feel included but large enough to remain private.
To which the simple answer to all of that is: correlation is not the same as causation.
If you went back 30 or 40 years, market towns were often poorer than the big town nearby. People left them and crappy jobs to go and work in modern jobs in towns. In the early part of the 20th century, those that lacked a railway line were often very poor.
Then around the late 70s/early 80s, cars started getting cheap and reliable enough that many people started buying houses in market towns, at first because they were cheap and then as they improved, because they were often more charming. New facilities like late-opening supermarkets and 24 hour garages meant that people could enjoy the benefits of the big towns while living in a rural setting.
So, that's where the rich often live now. In Ascot rather than Bracknell, in Alderley Edge rather than Manchester, in Warwick rather than Coventry.
Which is why you can't "design" market towns into main towns. Market towns don't have the unemployment problems or crime problems of large cities because the underclass can't get to live there. Someone in a house that loses their job for a long time will move somewhere cheaper.
As for "fewer call centres", what the hell? Call centres exist because they're efficient. Yes, it might not be as nice as walking into an insurance broker's office but people voted with their feet over that and chose the likes of Direct Line.
Saturday, 26 October 2013
From the BBC