Balham has been named as one of the top five most desirable places to live in London.

The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide, aims to reveal the little Nirvanas dotted across the UK.

Transport links, quality of schools, cultural life and unemployment figures are some of the elements taken into account in the study.

Author Eleanor Mills, also looks at individual assets, such as festivals, fascinating architecture or proximity to an airport in the guide.

Balham is listed as the fourth most desirable place to live, with Richmond coming top of the study, followed by Chiswick and Dulwich.

Muswell Hill came fifth - the only location making the top five in north London.

Gary Chadwick, master butcher in Chadwicks Butchers, in Balham High Road, said the area has seen dramatic changes since he started the business in 1999.

He said: "People looking in Clapham used Balham as an overspill. The difference now is Balham, with all it's schools and local facilities and shops - people are starting to see it in it's own light.

"We open on Sundays as many young people go out on a Friday night and don't do their shopping on Saturday. Most customers are aged 24 to 36 and come in on a Sunday."

Tony Moore, music artist director of The Bedford pub, said: "Balham is one of those rare locations, it is almost in the heart of London yet retains a certain villagey individuality.

"It is brilliantly serviced by tube, rail, and bus connections and has a very active and all inclusive cultural heart that stages many exciting local events throughout the year."

Yvonne Nazareth, who runs a market in the Balham Bowls Club, said: "Balham is really a great place to live as there is a real multi-cultural buzz about it that everyone loves.

"I believe that Balham Country Market's success is due to the fact that Balhamites are happy to shop locally when there is such an array of delicious home produced food available on their door step."

The town centre has gained significant private sector investment, with 60 businesses upgrading or moving into Balham between 2004 to 2008.

It has also recently been granted an £1.9m outer London fund by the Mayor of London to make improvements to the town centre.