RESIDENTS living in the UK's "happiest" neighbourhood say it is fast becoming a ghost town.
Cannock Chase, a district in the West Midlands, recently finished top of a study into happiness levels of areas across Britain.
The study, carried out by the Office for National Statistics, indicated a positive outlook for the region.
But residents, shoppers and businesses paint a different picture – pointing to one thing missing from their lives.
They say a number of shops have closed and footfall has declined since the survey was carried out.
The town centre has also become a hot spot for anti-social-behaviour, with a number of dispersal orders being handed out.
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In May, large-scale disorder erupted outside a theatre involving 100 men – some wielding weapons.
Paul McCusker, who runs a jewellery stall inside Cannock Shopping Centre called Jabba's Jewels, has been operating his shop since 2000.
However, he admitted trading is tough, saying: "If I didn't buy online, I would struggle.
"I don't normally come in on Mondays or Wednesday, I am usually picking up bits or taking gold to the Jewellery Quarter.
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"I moved into here in 2009 from the indoor market."
Many of the stalls located alongside his on the upper floor of the shopping centre are closed.
Shoppers Anette and Rob Appleton, 64 and 75, also pointed to the number of empty stores.
Anette said: "It's all banks and second-hand shops, there's nothing here."
On the shopping centre, she added: "Upstairs, it's shame, they built all that and there should have been lots of shops."
Anette continued: "Everyone is asking for a Primary, even a Boots. It would be good if we have a Primark there, at present we have to go to Walsall."
A homeless man living in a tunnel with his dog described how he had lost his home and job and become "stuck under here".
"Cannock is s***," he added.
Around the corner was the scene of the 100-person fight, which took place outside the Prince of Wales Theatre.
A woman who works at the theatre said the disorder was a "one off", adding: "That's the only thing we've had. We were just watching all the bikers but they weren't looking in our direction."
An employee of the town centre's Trade 2 Play agreed with shoppers over the lack of shopping options.
He said: "If we can get a good store like Primark, more people will come to the town. We need a big store, although, I don't think we'll see Mark & Spencer come here."
The ONS survey studied happiness levels through the Covid pandemic, with residents in each district asked to rate their happiness out of ten.
The survey collected scores for the periods of April 2019 to September 2020, April 2019 to March 2020 and January to March 2021.
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Residents in Cannock Chase gave average scores of 7.7, 7.3 and 7.1.
The region was named among the top five happiest place in England and Wales, with a score of 7.1.
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