Let’s hear it for the North. But, then, that might sound patronising to those who have long championed the virtues of life beyond Birmingham.
So let’s be restrictive and defer to the latest Liveability Index, which reveals that northern cities are the best places for the under-30s to live and work, with Sunderland emerging at the top of the pile, followed by Leeds, Aberdeen and Liverpool.
Milton Keynes is the only place in the South-East to make the top ten. The Liveability Index, created by financial services provider OneFamily, ranks all Britain’s towns and cities with more than 200,000 residents.
Wow factor: Sunderland has emerged at the best place to live in the UK, new findings suggest
Its conclusions are based on incomes, the cost of living and how people feel about where they live, including work-life balance, the property market, crime, leisure and green spaces.
Fittingly, Savills, the estate agent, has just announced that the house price divide between the North and London and the South-East has begun to narrow and will continue to do so, with London likely to suffer the most from post-Brexit Britain.
This has been confirmed by the Office for National Statistics, as reported in this week’s Money Mail.
Nici Audhlam-Gardiner, from OneFamily, says: ‘If you are thinking of buying your first home, it’s important to think carefully about where you want to live. Green spaces and living near friends and family are important, but it is also worth considering the cost of living.’
Which is where Sunderland comes in. A family with two young children can buy a three-bedroom, semi-detached home, with a garden and garage, for around £150,000-£180,000.
A two-bedroom flat within a five-minute walk of the coast can cost as little as £80,000.
At the top end of the market, there’s a house for sale for £1.5 million, a price that practically warrants front-page news status in local newspapers.
‘We may not have a John Lewis or Waitrose, but this is still a great place to live and bring up a family,’ says Chris Kelly, of Hunters estate agency.
Narrowing divide: The house price divide between the North and London and the South-East has begun to narrow
‘We’ve got a beautiful coast and go 20 minutes north, west or south and you’re in wonderful countryside.’
Sunderland’s great rival, Newcastle, is only 20 minutes away, but is a different sort of city, with its popular universities and affluent neighbourhoods.
It’s fair to say that Newcastle has been the beneficiary of extra money both from central government and from the EU, whereas Sunderland — where unemployment is still a big issue — has relied mainly on Nissan, its biggest employer, to entice people to relocate there.
The car giant opened its Sunderland operation in 1986 and is now the biggest car factory in the country, off-setting some of the job losses at the former shipyards along the Wear, many of which have been converted into flats and offices. At one time, Sunderland was known as the ‘largest shipbuilding city in the world’.
‘I’m not pretending the city is booming, but it’s full of opportunity and there are signs we are going in the right direction,’ says Chris Poulton, who owns Martin & Co estate agents.
A new £117million bridge, the Northern Spire, was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in February and opened in August. Mr Poulton hopes it will put a whole new area of the city on the map, as well as improving the city’s transport links.
Almost next to the Nissan factory, just off the A19 there are plans for what’s being called the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, a ‘hub for automotive, advanced manufacturing and technology businesses’, which is expected to produce more than 5,000 new jobs.
‘If a couple are each earning £25,000, that’s £50,000 between them, so a house for £150,000 is not too much of a stretch,’ says Mr Poulton, a proud Sunderland man who has lived here all his life.
‘Born and bred and I wouldn’t have it any other way,’ he says. ‘All that stuff about how it’s grim up North is complete nonsense.’
‘Gorgeous: All that stuff about how it’s grim up North is complete nonsense, Chris Poluton says