Skipton is celebrating after being crowned the most desirable area in the country by The Sunday Times’s 101 Best Places to Live in Britain.

But supporters of the town – which also won Great Street of the Year in 2008 – say it must be protected against overdevelopment.

The Sunday Times judges put it in top spot for its ideal combination of low crime rates, “top class” schools, great transport links, “buzzing” high street, pretty and reasonably priced property and beautiful surrounding countryside.

“Skipton is a worthy winner,” said home editor Helen Davies. “We love it for its big-hearted, buzzy life.”

Second in the list was Newnham, a district of Cambridge, with Monmouth, third and Falmouth, fourth.

Each place was selected for offering the best quality of life to the widest number of people and combining desirable features such as a positive community spirit, good local shops, services and attractive outdoor spaces.

Skipton MP Julian Smith said he was over the moon.

“The judges described all the attributes we know Skipton has, whether it is access to the Dales, quality of its schooling or its high street.

“I think the title is very, very richly deserved and I pay tribute to the community groups, councils and civic leaders as well as the community at large who have played a role in making Skipton the best place to live in Britain.

“I am a very proud local MP.”

There was also delight – and a word of warning – from Sebastian Fattorini, administrator of Skipton Castle.

“The recent accolade for Skipton is well deserved but to keep our pole position we need to protect its uniqueness from the grey institutional developers,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by local town, district and county councillor Robert Heseltine.

He said: “It’s good for Skipton to be recognised as a rather exceptional market town and the premier place to live.

“It’s in the heart of Yorkshire and it’s the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. It’s strong on tradition and it has a really excellent education system.

“It is of paramount importance that we do not lose or throw away the character of our town. Overdevelopment could erode or destroy it.”

Coun Chris Harbron, leader of Skipton Town Council, said: “This is a fantastic result for the town and is all the more valuable in that it is an independent survey based on a combination of hard data and research.

“It’s no accident that Skipton performs so well. It is a combination of the hard work of so many organisations – councils, schools, police and emergency services, shops and businesses, community groups and their support networks – they all come together to make Skipton what it is. I’m very proud to work and live in the town. We should sing this from the rooftops.”

Leader of Craven District Council, Coun Chris Knowles Fitton, said everyone should be grateful and proud. “This accolade will further boost the area as a great place to live, work and visit and we shall all continue to work hard to maintain and enhance the town’s growing reputation.”

Chief executive Paul Shevlin added: “Topping the list is the result of joint effort and hard work by those who live and work here. Residents, businesses, authorities, everybody in the Craven area should feel proud of this achievement.”