Research - 30/01/2024

UK Vitality Index 2024: Watford ranked UK's top location for vitality

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Lambert Smith Hampton 2024 UK Vitality Index: Watford Ranked UK's Top Location for Vitality

  • Index is a definitive health check on the UK’s towns and cities
  • Top ten dominated by towns and cities in the south of England
  • Lack of surprise inclusions highlights growing inequality gap across the UK

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An annual health assessment of the UK’s largest towns and cities outside London, undertaken by property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), has revealed Watford as the UK’s best place to live and work based on a number of metrics that contribute to overall growth prospects.

The Hertfordshire town climbed from third position last year to knock Bath off top spot. Having debuted in the Top Ten in 2022, Watford’s steady climb reflects a transformation in its relative standing among the UK’s largest town centres.

The LSH Vitality Index offers an objective health check on the UK’s largest 100 towns and cities outside of London based on a range of measures including economy, health and environment. Each location was ranked on three pillars: Economy & Business; Living; and Health & Environment.

Woking was second placed in this year’s index and High Wycombe third, in a top ten dominated by towns and cities across the south of England, including Hemel Hempstead, Windsor & Maidenhead, Bath, Milton Keynes and Chelmsford. In a top ten ranking devoid of any representation from Wales or Northern Ireland, Edinburgh flies the flag for Scotland – coming in at tenth place.

This year’s top ten lacks representation from a number of regions, specifically the East Midlands, North-West, North-East, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, several locations in the West Midlands saw notable improvements in their respective rankings since last year. Most notably, the Cathedral city of Worcester climbed a massive 21 places to eleventh, driven by strong scores for recent job growth and forecasted GVA.

Cardiff saw the most significant ranking increase from last year among the Welsh locations, climbing ten places from last year to make 16th and reaching the top five in the Economy & Business pillar. Although this reflected improvements across many metrics, the Welsh capital stood out for its high score on job growth.

Oliver du Sautoy, Head of Research at LSH, said:

“The lack of surprises – or outliers – in this year’s index remains a stark reminder of the ongoing disconnect in health, affluence and growth across the UK.

“The Vitality Index was initially conceived over a decade ago as a means of highlighting the UK towns and cities with the best growth prospects. While it is pleasing to see new entrants rise into the upper echelons of the rankings each year, the persistent lack of representation from many of the UK’s regions highlights the ongoing regional disparities evident in across the UK”.

An additional ‘Opportunity Index’, first introduced in the 2021 report, puts a spotlight on those locations best placed to overcome current challenges and grow.

For a second successive year, the West Midlands town of Nuneaton sits at the top of the Opportunity ranking for 2024. Its grip on top spot reflects both the positive impact of various government funding initiatives helping to unlock new investment and development in the town, and a strong score for projected population growth in the 20-44 age category.

Dr Steven Norris, Head of Planning, Regeneration + Infrastructure at LSH, added:

“It is encouraging to see the Opportunity Top Ten much less focused on the South, and instead dominated by locations in the North and the Midlands. This supports the theory that towns and cities with growing populations and opportunities for employment can position themselves for growth and prosperity – especially when supported by additional government funding”.

Download the full report here

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