A FULL house of alluring attributes makes Reigate one of the best places to live in Britain – but that’s no surprise to the town’s proud residents.
Reigate has once again claimed a spot in the Sunday Times’ list of the 101 Best Places to Live in Britain. And while not all will agree with the paper’s assertion that “in spirit Reigate is increasingly ‘north London’,” the “best place” badge is one few Reigatians are surprised to claim.
“Reigate sets itself apart from any other place locally because it’s unique,” said the chairman of the town’s business guild, Warren Andrews. “That makes it attractive for people to live here and visit here.”
He backs that up by listing a “full house” of desirable assets, from low crime rates to good schools, the proximity to the M25 and the green belt.
“It’s a historic market town in a place of outstanding beauty. The town centre itself has a mix of independent traders which gives it a unique quality. That creates a real community spirit.”
For the Sunday Times, the growing number of eateries and the town’s independent clothes shops have not gone unnoticed – and the presence for the past few months of the High Street’s much-maligned Homeware Zone shop has not put the analysers off.
“Witness the organic delis, frock shops, and even a new coffee shop-cum-cycle emporium, Maison du Velo, where you can drool flat-white froth over £4,000 carbon frames,” the paper gushed.
“It also has a reputation for its dining scene, with more restaurants than you can shake a bread stick at. Families love Reigate too, for the schools and the open spaces of Priory Park and the North Downs.”
Among its many assets, a plentiful choice of restaurants has turned the town into a mecca for foodies, according to chef Tony Tobin, who is in his 20th year at High Street’s The Dining Room.
“It’s a destination town now,” he said. “You have got in excess of 30 restaurants and you can’t get into any of them on a Friday or Saturday night unless you book.
“We have got a lovely-looking town with a fantastic choice. It has just got so much to offer. Every time I introduce people who have never been before, to Reigate, they fall in love with it.
“It’s definitely in the top ten places to live in the country and it’s in my top one – I’m not going anywhere.”
The draw of schools is backed up by a glance at Ofsted ratings, and the knowledge that education authority Surrey County Council has faced a serious headache of demand over supply in recent years. Incredibly, of the nine mainstream state schools in Reigate, five, or 56 per cent, are judged to be outstanding – way above the national average – with the remainder rated as good.
Reigate is one of 14 South East settlements to make the list, but one of only four in the region, and the only place in Surrey, to retain its place since the Sunday Times produced its first national league table last year.