LEIGH has been named as the fourth best place to live in the country by a panel of experts.

The town was granted the accolade by The Times’ Bricks and Mortar team in its 30 Best Places supplement, citing the cockle sheds in Old Leigh, its proximity to London, the highperforming grammar schools in nearby Westcliff, and the annual Leigh Art Trail as some of the reasons behind its success.

It was the only town in Essex to make the list and was only beaten by Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, Bakewell in Derbyshire and top town Bath in Somerset.

For investment banker Adil Dede, 55, Leigh’s “cafeculture” and its proximity to London were big draws for him moving to Leigh Hall Road this summer.

He said: “We are moving to Leigh from Surrey as our twin boys have had places offered at Westcliff Grammar School.

“We previously lived in Hampstead, London, and we like that cafe/bar culture of central London.

“We have not seen many places outside London that give you that feeling, even if they have similar high street set-ups.

“For us, Leigh has that vibrant social scene with a feeling of the sea, brought to breeze, as you sip your morning coffee at one of those cafes along the Broadway.”

Town councillor Caroline Parker is herself a relative newcomer to the town, having moved from Benfleet in 1994, and Leigh’s high placing may be due to the town having a “village feel".

She said: “I grew up in Benfleet but, when I decided to move out because it didn’t have that buzz to it, I chose Leigh and I think that’s one of the things that attracts people – it has that buzz.

“There’s always something going on, there are lots of cultural events all year round, and we have some of the most interesting shops in the whole of south east Essex – if you want something you can’t get anywhere else, then come to Leigh-on-Sea.

“Princess Margaret even visited an antiques shop on Pall Mall in the late 1990s on the advice of then-MP Paul Channon, and Rod Stewart and Anthea Turner have also shopped in Leigh. It has that panache and innovation.”

Paul Gilson, of Leigh and Southend Fishermen’s Association, said the industry was part of the town’s appeal.

He said: “Leigh is a nice place to live not only because of the ambience of the shopping areas but also because people like to see a working fishing town – it’s got that historical feel to it.”