SOUTH Wirral is becoming a magnet for people earning more than £60,000 a year.

The area has become the second fastest-growing area in the North West in terms of wealth and the 16th fastest nationally, according to a new survey.

The research based on eight million bank customers shows the Wirral area - covering Heswall, Bebington, Clatterbridge, Bromborough and Eastham -climbing up the ranks of affluent areas.

The annual "affluentials" survey released by Barclays Financial Planning looked at the growth in the number of people earning more than £60,000 per year.

According to the survey, south Wirral has seen its proportion of high earners rise from 3.57% last year to 5.42% in 2004, an increase of 52%, coming 16th on the list of fastest growing affluent areas.

Local MP Ben Chapman welcomed the outcome of the survey and said his constituency of Wirral South was ideal for those trying to escape city life but remain within easy reach of where they work.

He said: "These statistics are a good illustration of the fact that Wirral South and the North West in general are continuing to flourish, thanks especially to the growing strength of the economy.

"People are increasingly making lifestyle choices in relation to where they live and Wirral South is an area of outstanding beauty and is conveniently located, especially for those seeking access to Liverpool, Cheshire and North Wales."

This year the top five places were all outside the South East, with High Peak in Derbyshire topping the list of those with the fastest growing affluent populations.

Monmouth and Cardiff followed in second and third places, with Withington in Manchester and Keighley in Yorkshire making up the rest of the top five.

The business development director for Barclays wealth businesses, Steven Mendel, said: "Despite the economy having gone through a period of slowdown there has not been an equivalent slowdown in growth in numbers of affluent people with incomes continuing to push ahead.

"The most remarkable aspect is that the highest growth areas are now outside London.

"Desirable rural areas such as the Peak District and the English/Welsh borders are attracting ever greater numbers of the affluent who are choosing to live in the country whilst commuting to their well-paid jobs in the large cities."

Overall, 29 areas in England and Wales have more than one in ten people earning over £60,000 per year, compared to just eight in 2003.