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It's official: Herts is the place to be

LONGER life expectancy, higher income, good educational standards, a low crime rate and a strong economy are just a few of the things that make Hertfordshire one of the best places to live in the country, according to the latest Quality of Life Report. The new report, produced by the Hertfordshire Environmental Forum (HEF), is packed with detailed information about how Hertfordshire's quality of life compares with other parts of the country.

It is based on a comprehensive range of indicators covering the three areas that make up a sustainable county; economic, social and environmental. Councillor Mandy Perkins, the HEF chairman, said: "This year's HEF Quality of Life Report is ten years on from Rio and in that time we have all become more aware of what is happening to the environment around us. "Each year, the QOL reports allow us to track the changes in Hertfordshire. "Some things get worse, but many get better.

"The information contained in the reports enable us all to work together to identify and tackle the problems – it's a proper partnership working for mutual benefit."

While house prices are among the highest in the country – an average terraced house in this county costs more than 163,000 – our income also continues to increase, with the current average household income amounting to 32,700. Local authorities are continuing to press for more affordable housing in their Local Plans. The vast majority of people in the county have jobs, with unemployment (at 1.5 per cent) still well below the national average. The performance of the local economy is still going from strength to strength. With its service sector growth rising to six per cent, and its construction output booming to 18.9 per cent, Hertfordshire has outstripped most other counties in the region.

Crime levels are still among the lowest in the country, although the way that crime statistics are calculated has been changed so figures will be based on reported incidents rather than cases being investigated.

Performance of children in schools – both at primary and secondary levels – continues to be higher than the national average, with about 60 per cent of 15-year-olds obtaining five or more GCSEs (A-C). And, encouragingly, many more children are walking to school – in fact, more children in Hertfordshire make the journey on foot (almost 44 per cent) than by car (39 per cent).

We are using up more water than we have in previous years – 181 litres per person, per day, compared with 175 litres the year before. There are mixed results from the WasteAware campaign message; the amount of waste we generate is remaining constant, yet we are increasing our recycling efforts with 30 per cent of waste now being recycled. Water quality in our rivers is still improving and above average for the country, and air pollution has dropped considerably compared with 1999 levels, probably owing to better weather conditions in 2002. And to top it all, people in Hertfordshire have a higher than average life expectancy; 77 years for men and 81 for women.

The bad news is a drastic decline in some once common species of wildlife, including water voles, house sparrows, thrushes and various kinds of butterfly – a continuing major concern for conservationists.

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