So, what exactly do people look for when it comes to living in a suburban area? We know it’s usually a combination of high-speed trains, affordable house prices and good schools.
With this in mind, Selecta UK has dived into the latest data to find the most desirable commuter towns for those whose work takes them into the capital, as well as analysing five additional regions for those commuting to Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The company standardised the latest city and country-level data available for key categories including train travel time to London, annual season ticket cost, school ratings, crime ratings and available wellness facilities to rate the most desirable commuter towns to London from best to worst.
Of the 31 towns analysed, Ashtead (9.75) ranks in first position overall. It is closely followed by Thames Ditton (8.73) and Oxted (8.19) in the second and third places. Beaconsfield (8.13) and Bourne End (8.01) complete the top 5 towns.
1: Ashtead, Surrey - 9.75
2: Thames Ditton, Surrey - 8.73
3: Oxted, Surrey - 8.19
4: Beaconsfield, Hertfordshire - 8.13
5: Bourne End, Hertfordshire - 8.01
6: Swanley, Kent - 7.73
7: Warlingham, Surrey - 7.72
8: Kings Langley, Hertfordshire - 7.66
9: Addlestone, Surrey - 7.31
10: Marlow, Buckinghamshire - 7.26
Ashtead, meaning ‘Homestead among the ash trees’ dates to the Iron Age, making it one of the oldest and most historic settlements in Surrey. Being only 46 minutes from London, it’s a reasonable length journey for commuters and hybrid workers.
The town scores favourably in most of the categories but in particular for the percentage of outstanding schools (30 per cent), for which it receives the highest score out of all the towns listed.
Ashtead also receives the top score for the number of picturesque National Trust properties in its vicinity. For example, Box Hill - the perfect place to discover a family walk in the Surrey Hills- is just 20 minutes away. So is, Claremont Landscape Gardens, a grade 1 listed garden created by the great landscape designers of the 18th century.
Finally, Ashtead has the second highest number of available well-being facilities on the list. Facilities like medical clinics, wellness centres, gyms and yoga studios are essential for social connection, according to scientists, as well as boosting general health and happiness.
It also has the fifth lowest crime rate and the fifth lowest cost annual season ticket of £3,492 a year. The only low score Ashtead receives is for the number of Instagram posts in which it is tagged.
Second overall is Thames Ditton (8.73) in Surrey. It receives the highest score of all the towns analysed for the number of wellbeing facilities available to locals and has the cheapest annual season ticket at £2,976 per year. It is in the sixth position for the highest percentage of outstanding schools in the area (21 per cent).
It misses out on the top spot due to its higher average house prices, compared to Ashtead. The average house price in Thames Ditton is £912,138 compared to Ashtead’s £738, 389.
Rounding up the top three is Oxted (8.19). It is in third position for the number of available wellbeing facilities and third for the percentage of outstanding schools in the area (25 per cent). The only category where it scores significantly less favourably than the top two most desirable towns is for its crime rates. Oxted has the 6th highest crime rate out of the towns listed, whereas Ashtead has one of the lowest crime rates.
The town with the shortest commute to London is Swanley, which is just 20 minutes, closely followed by Beaconsfield which is 23 minutes.
Kings Langley has the lowest crime rate, and Henley-on-Thames’ scenic views make it number one for the most ‘Instagrammable’ of all the commuter towns. Photos of Henley have been posted about 564,000 times. Interestingly, this beautiful town has the highest crime rate listed too.
The bottom three towns in the study are Virginia Water (4.71), followed by Rochford (4.33). Arlesey is in last place (4.23).
Commenting on the findings Selecta UK said:
“With hybrid working the new norm and many workers spending more days in the office post-pandemic, it’s interesting to see workers are not solely concerned with travel times into London, but also about their local community and amenities.
“We hope people find our research informative and it helps those looking for a good commute location to London to support both their professional and personal preferences.”