A recent survey, which concluded that South Cambridgeshire is the best rural area in which to live in the UK, has been queried by some commentators who say that many of the areas named should not have been considered.
The annual Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey tracks living standards across categories, including housing, the environment and education, in 140 authorities with populations of less than 10,000 residents.
It concluded that South Cambridgeshire was ?a great place to live? with a higher than average life expectancy, an employment rate of 79% and a ?relatively good climate?, with less rainfall per year than the national average.
However, South Cambridgeshire resident and former councillor, Shooting Times columnist Robin Page, told this magazine that not only did he feel that his local area should not have come top, but that he also felt it should not even be called ?rural?.
He said: ?This survey is a complete joke. The standard of living may have gone up, but with the suburbanisation of South Cambridgeshire, the quality of life for country people has plummeted.?
?The amount of wildlife has decreased dramatically, congestion on the roads has increased, and there are queues in the doctors? surgeries. There are few villages out of range of the noise from a main road.?
?In my view, South Cambridgeshire has ceased to be a rural district, and is now semi-urban. The results reflect the values of the people who set the study in motion. I would say that their values are not the same as my values and their idea of quality of life is not the same as mine. We?re talking here about two different cultures.?
Shooting Times? Sharpshooter, Alasdair Mitchell, also called into question the survey?s validity, and its conclusion that ?residents in southern England generally enjoy the best rural quality of life?.
He said: ?The urban bias of this survey is shown by the fact that it assumes lowest rainfall is best and counts a town of 10,000 as rural. In Northumberland National Park, where I live, only 1,936 people inhabit 1,049 sq km (405 sq miles) of spectacular scenery.?
?I love it ? not least because I agree with Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, who wrote: Hell is other people?.
The Countryside Alliance, which has said that a ?community indicator? would be a useful addition to the categories employed by surveys that seek to measure quality of life, chose not to comment on individual areas of the country or the way in which this survey was conducted.
Its chief executive, Alice Barnard, did however pick up on rural house prices as an issue that adversely affected country dwellers? quality of life.
She said: ?We certainly believe that rural areas are great places to live. The higher quality of life and associated benefits rural living brings has led to a greater demand for housing, particularly in hot-spot areas.?
?The lack of affordable housing in rural areas is, however, one of the greatest threats facing these communities. The ongoing movement of population from cities to the countryside has seen the rural population grow at twice the rate of urban areas. This has driven up house prices, pricing young families out of the communities in which they work and in which, often, they have been brought up.?