The Sunday Times’ expert judges curate the list each year by assessing a wide range of factors, from schools, air quality, transport and broadband speeds, to culture, green spaces and the health of the high street.
They look for improving towns, villages or city centres, for attractive, well-designed homes, and locations bursting with community spirit.
When it comes to Altrincham in 2021, the judges were particularly keen on the area’s schools – with the girls’ grammar being named the North West state secondary school of the decade by The Sunday Times Parent Power guide, and the boys’ grammar landed second place – and the convenient tram route into central Manchester was also noted as a highlight, along with its open spaces such as Stamford Park, the River Bollin, and the National Trust’s Dunham Massey.
The Everyman cinema, “neat specialist shops” such as Batch Bottlestore and the Idaho interiors shop, as well as restaurants such as Sugo Pasta Kitchen, were also all mentioned.
Most of all though, the judges were impressed with the town’s iconic market and food hall – which has been responsible for the regeneration of the town centre that was once described the “worst high street in Britain” – and heaped praise on the way it has remained at the heart of life in the area, despite prolonged closures and challenging circumstances amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Helen Davies – Property Editor at The Times and Sunday Times – said this year’s guide has never been more important, as the pandemic has taught us how much we rely on our homes and communities and has lead many to reassess our priorities on where we really want to live.
“Our focus for this year has been community, countryside and convenience,” Helen said.
“It hasn’t been a year for big cities or small villages. Instead, it is small towns that have shone – big enough to have everything you need within walking distance and small enough for everyone to feel connected.
“Altrincham was chosen as our regional winner this year as it has everything you want in a suburb: parks, excellent transport links and top-class schools.”
She continued: “The inspirational market and food hall that transformed the town centre from the worst in Britain to a favourite destination have continued to show their value, even during the pandemic”.
Steve Ford – Altrincham Property Expert from Purplebricks, who has been in estate agency for 37 years – added that the town has always been an “extremely popular hotspot.”
“The tram gets you to the centre of Manchester in about 20 minutes whilst you still enjoy the leafy suburbs on the edge of the Cheshire countryside,” he said.
“Altrincham town centre is enjoying a huge investment and resurgence.
“The announcements this week around the proposed improvements to the Stamford Quarter further illustrate how the town centre is truly returning to a bustling market town”.
Alongside Altrincham, the seven other North West locations listed in the guide were Manchester – particularly the area around Manchester Piccadilly station, with Ancoats, Chorlton, Didsbury and Levenshulme also getting a shoutout – Saddleworth in Oldham, Knutsford and Bollington in Cheshire, Liverpool, and Kirkby Lonsdale, and Arnside and Silverdale, all in Cumbria.
Taking the top spot for the best place to live in the UK in 2021 is the small market town of Stroud in Gloucestershire.
You can read the full list on The Sunday Times website here.
Heinz teams up with Absolut Vodka to create new ‘pasta alla vodka’ sauce
After hiking the price of its cream of tomato soup by 79% at the start of the year, Heinz was firmly in our bad books – but a new collaboration withAbsolut Vodka might just be about to turn all of that around.
In a partnership we didn’t even know we needed, the two brands have come together to create the ultimate jar of Pasta alla Vodka sauce.
Spicy vodka pasta has long been a favourite with Italian food lovers, but the dish has been experiencing something of a moment in the spotlight ever since supermodel Gigi Hadid shared her own viral recipe on social media.
The dish has since become one of the trendiest recipes on TikTok and Instagram, leading Heinz to pull themselves into gear and create their own version of the popular sauce.
Despite its over 150-year history of creating world-renowned tomato-based products, Heinz has admitted to being ‘ridiculously late’ to the tomato-based pasta sauce game.
Now, though, that is all set to change as the brand releases its own version of the much-loved recipe to the masses, in jar-form, through the creation of Heinz x Absolut Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce.
Calling it ‘a match made in pasta heaven,’ according to a press release the vodka in the sauce ‘unlocks the flavours and intensifies the aroma’ of the rich and creamy tomato, basil and cheese concoction.
During the cooking process, most of the alcohol from the vodka is reduced, boosting the volatile flavour compounds already present in the tomatoes and creating a rich texture that perfectly balances the creamy, cheese notes with the rich tomato and fragrant basil.
Speaking on the new release, Caio Fontenele, Heinz New Ventures Director, said: “While it may have taken over 150 years of tomato expertise to launch our first Heinz pasta sauce, we’re determined to continue innovating and delighting consumers with delicious flavours, at the speed of social media trends.
“We are thrilled with the partnership between these two centenary brands, bringing the first tomato vodka pasta sauce to major UK supermarkets. The iconic combination of Heinz’s high-quality tomato sauces and Absolut’s premium vodka is set to offer fans the ultimate pasta alla vodka experience. And the result is absolutely delicious!”
Of the launch, Leanne Banks, Marketing Director, Pernod Ricard UK, added: “It’s only natural that we’d partner with Heinz on this ultimate collaboration between two iconic brands, with two iconic bottles.
“As the UK’s no.1 premium vodka, Absolut was Born to Mix, whether that’s in delicious drinks or fun food combinations and Heinz x Absolut Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce is a match made in heaven. Now fans of our brand can enjoy Absolut in an entirely new and innovative way, Pasta alla Vodka style.”
A limited number of the Heinz x Absolut Tomato Vodka Pasta sauce jars will be available at Waitrose from mid-April for £2.50 for a 350g jar.
However, if you don’t want to miss out, you can pre-order one of a limited run of the special sauce from Heinz’s direct-to-consumer website, www.heinztohome.co.uk, to get your hands on a jar ahead of its official supermarket launch.
Qatar and Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to submit ‘world record’ offers to buy Manchester United as other bidders are expected to join the race
The deadline for the second round of bidders in the race to takeover Manchester United football club has officially passed, with multiple world record offers reportedly on the verge of being submitted.
Following the first round of bids, which saw a Qatar investment group headed up by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe both put in their initial offers, Manchester United set a second deadline of 9pm on 22 March for them to increase their offers and welcome other offers.
While the opening bids matched each other at £4.5 billion, working with financial advisors Raine Group who are brokering in the deal from the US, neither reached the Glazer family ownership’s estimations, who value the club closer to £6bn.
As a result, both went on to carry out further negotiations — each visiting Old Trafford last Friday and staying for upwards of six hours (more than 10 in the case of the Qataris) — but it is now thought they may no longer be the only parties involved in the bidding war. Whether it will be in time is the issue.
Despite earlier reports that Sheikh Jassim and his associates had submitted a “world record offer” before the Glazers and Raine Group’s 9pm deadline (5pm New York time), Sky Sports‘ Kaveh Solhekol has now clarified that the bid was not submitted in time and that they have asked for an extension.
Man United are said to have agreed to the extension and Sheikh Jassim still remains confident that they have the “best bid” of the bunch.
Moreover, as per the likes of Mike Keegan, Jim Ratcliffe was also set to enter his second bid, with both offers said to have increased to around the £5bn mark. However, the INEOS chief exec is also said to have failed to meet the deadline and been granted an extension, according to a senior source.
Kaveh also went on to detail that multiple other offers have in fact been submitted, with the numbers said to be “approaching eight” different bidders.
Any bid of more than £3.75bn would break the world record fee for a sports club set when the Denver Broncos were sold last summer.
As for the frontrunners, both offers are still around a billion short of the Glazer’s asking price and not only have Sheikh Jassim and co. already warned they will ‘walk away’ if the price is too high, but it’s unclear how far Ratcliffe’s wealth can stretch if he is to continue pursuing a deal.
The key difference between the two bids is that Qatar’s bid will apparently make the club debt-free given the sheer mass of state wealth behind them, whereas the Failsworth-born businessman’s financing may be more complex to put together.
Trying to clear up the confusion, The Times‘ Matt Lawton said on Twitter that “both Qatari and INEOS representatives said their bids were in, United sources [are] saying they haven’t yet bid and have asked for an extension”, with offers now set to be made by tomorrow.
As reported by Sky Sports earlier this week, it was thought that “at least five other bidders” and as many as eight in question could join the race along with Ratcliffe and Qatar, who were the only two parties to have submitted an official offer for United during the first round of bidding.
However, a detailed list of the other candidates and precisely how many are still yet to be confirmed; Kaveh did go on to suggest that some could simply be a form of “hot air” designed to hopefully urge the ‘serious bidders’ to edge their offers up even higher.
As for next steps, neither of the parties in the supposed two-horse race expect an immediate decision from the board, especially after the unexpected delay, and those who submitted new offers in the second round of bidding will have to wait at least seven days to hear back from the club and brokers Raine Group regarding their progress.
However, it is worth noting that these subsequent bids may not necessarily be attempts to buy the club outright and not only is there a feeling that a third round of negotiations could take place, but there is also a growing sense that the Glazers could still pull out of a potential buyout altogether.