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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 15:58 GMT
The capital of happy ever after
Wedding rings
One in seven of the population is divorced or separated
A small market town in mid-Bedfordshire is the happy ever after capital of Britain.

Biggleswade on the A1 is best known for its market square and as the home of Dan Albone, one of the pioneers of the bicycle.

But it also has the highest number of successful marriages in the country, according to consumer information company Claritas.

Only 6% of people in the town are divorced or separated, compared to the national average of 16.4%.

Wedding bliss

Biggleswade mayor Bernard Briars put the success in part down to high employment levels.

"We're a fast growing town with a particularly low level of unemployment," he said.

"Factors like that can have a huge impact on family stability."

However, other locals are mystified how Biggleswade is the UK's centre of domestic bliss.

Married couple
The chances of happy ever can depend on where you live

"I'm taking this with a pinch of salt," said Alan Dansey, who runs a business directory in the town.

"From my work with the youth clubs, I see plenty of divided homes and one parent families."

The latest divorce statistics shows that the chances of achieving wedding bliss can depend on where you live.

You are five times more likely to end up divorced if you live in Skelmersdale in Lancashire where 32.4% of people in the town are divorced or separated - the worst rate in Britain.

This figure could in part be blamed on its high unemployment rate, said Vicky Cuthbertson, manager of the marriage guidance charity Relate in Lancashire.

Counselling services

Latest figures show the town suffers from 6.6% unemployment.

"Unemployment is one of the prime factors that can cause problems in a marriage or relationship," she said.

She added that there was a waiting list for counselling services in the town.

Other divorce black spots are in Hove, East Sussex, and Barking, Essex, were nearly 30% of the population is divorced or separated.

Divorced capital
Trends show more divorces in seaside towns

At the other end of the scale are Altrincham in Greater Manchester, Beverley in Humberside, and Kingswinford in the West Midlands - all of which boast divorce or separation rates of less than 7%.

The survey did pick up several trends. The northern home counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire had some of the lowest divorce rates, while seaside towns in the south east such as Brighton and Havant had some of the highest rates.

London, often considered a divorce blackspot, only came 19th out of the top 50 towns and cities with the highest divorce and separation rates.

Few towns in Scotland and Wales featured in either the worst or the best divorce rates statistics.

The tables drew on answers from 226,000 consumers across the UK.

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