Life is good in market towns

HAPPINESS is a place called Morpeth, new data suggests.

The Office for National Statistics has published its Measuring National Well-being Programme results.

And the figures suggest that rural market towns are linked to the highest levels of personal well-being due to factors such as their sense of identity, community spirit and size.

Action For Market Towns, which supports the development of such communities, has backed the findings.

Chief Executive Chris Wade said: “Market towns’ community spirit has been born out of doing things for themselves and decades of self-reliance. Many have faced the challenging economic climate with community-led ideas that involve and engage their residents, helping them to thrive and to be great places to live and to work.”

In Morpeth, the sense of place has recently shone through in claiming the Best Town title in Britain In Bloom.

Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner said: “I do believe that people who live in Morpeth think it is a lovely place to live. It has got character, it has a sense of community and it has a sense of pride of place. I think that is something that is missing from a lot of towns.

“The Bloom award showed all its strengths. When you have people coming out to do litter-picks and to help with different aspects of the competition it shows that people do have a pride in the town.

“The Christmas lights switch-on is going from strength to strength and it is so popular now that we need to apply for road closures, but there are always things going on. There is something for all ages, whether it is the bowls club, flower arranging, bridge clubs or activities for children and young people, like the Scouts and Guides.

“When you go to places that are held up as being the ‘in place’ you realise, ‘hang on a minute, our streets are much better than here’.”

Coun Ken Brown, who is a member of the Morpeth Town Team partnership, said ongoing projects are also adding to the town’s well-being.

“The situation is changing in Morpeth in that we are sorting out the traffic lights and car parking charges and we are combating inappropriate development through the Neighbourhood Plan so there are a lot of positive things going on,” he said.

“We are trying to build on the vibrancy of the town by holding various events and I think there is a resurgence of community spirit here.

“While it is not perfect, I think in the eyes of a lot of people the town is developing and overall we have got a lot to be thankful for.”