Swept up by the hype, I’ve just binge-watched my first-ever run of British TV crime drama Happy Valley. All good Bafta-worthy stuff. But is it really that unrelentingly grim up north?

Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart

I wanted to join the eight million viewers watching the last episode. “You can’t unless you’ve watched all three series,” my wife protested. “You’ll just keep asking what’s going on?” (For example: “Where did he get that nasty gash on his head?”).

So, I spent the next few nights cramming series three on iPlayer, while going to great lengths to evade spoilers – much like Bob and Terry trying to avoid hearing an England football result ahead of Match of the Day in another northern TV classic, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

What transpired was not exactly the idyllic Hebden Bridge I’d imagined: more an everyday tale of sheep, sleaze and psychopaths. And is it quite so wet and dark? According to Weatherspark.com, it’s supposed to rain 115 days per year on average in the town. I reckon it was almost every day, based on the outdoor shots.

Has this gritty portrayal depressed housing demand and prices in the town? Possibly. Since series one kicked off in April 2014, prices in the Calderdale local authority where Hebden Bridge is situated have risen by 40%, I’m kindly informed by Zoopla.

Not bad, but 20 miles up the road in Holmfirth, setting for the much-loved sitcom Last of the Summer Wine (similar scenery, lower body count), values in the surrounding area went up by 50%. Gentle comedies would appear much better for house prices than drug wars.

Homes for local people

Local newspapers, however, report that the town’s inhabitants have loved every minute of the filming. Perhaps local people are quite happy to dissuade incomers (especially southerners) from pitching up in their valley – a bit like Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup in Royston Vasey – the supposed Cumbrian setting of the darkly comic League of Gentlemen?

Rents, it would seem, are another matter. Faisal, Happy Valley’s hapless pharmacist, was seen desperately probing a property portal for a bolthole for his doomed lover, Joanna, but to no avail.

Perhaps the spectacularly popular series will tempt fans to tour the town (initially perhaps staying in their cars with doors locked and avoiding dodgy blokes on motor scooters). Once they realise they’re safe and the weather is better than portrayed it might encourage more demand.

Yorkshire & Humberside is pipped only by the north of England and Scotland among the most affordable regions in the UK to buy homes in the latest Affordability Report from Nationwide Building Society. Mortgage payments swallow up some 28% of the average take-home pay of first-time buyers in the region – the highest level in a decade, due mainly to interest rate rises, but still well below the UK average of just below 40% and, in London, closing in on 70%. A definite case for ‘levelling up’.

But I wouldn’t rule out some initial reticence from potential developers. In Happy Valley, Gangland supremo Darius Knezevic had plans to transform an asbestos-blighted industrial shed into flats. Would you want to turn up on his patch?

Back in the real world, things appear to be picking up already in the region’s housing market. The data in the RICS Residential Market Survey for January does not provide many insights into regional disparities in what was a largely uniform downbeat assessment of the market.

But the surveyors’ comments at the back of the monthly report are often as insightful as the data that precedes them. Alexander McNeil of Bramleys in nearby Huddersfield chimes with what looks like newfound optimism from other respondents in Yorkshire & Humberside: “An encouraging start to the year after a poor December. A brighter market as dark clouds of gloom dissipate for now.”

Could this be as much a metaphor for the lifting of Happy Valley’s nine years of meteorological and moral darkness, as much as for the more recent spate of economic turbulence?

Alastair Stewart is an equities analyst and consultant