Everybody needs good neighbours

on Wednesday, 16 June 2010. Posted in N21 Community

The Co-op has just released a report entitled ‘Co-operative streets: Neighbours in the UK, described as “the most comprehensive piece of research into the UK's neighbours”.

The report concludes that the UK is less than half as neighbourly in 2010 than it was 28 years ago in 1982.

How do they reach this conclusion? On the whole the findings make pretty depressing reading:

*  Typically we know the names of just seven people in our neighbourhood, compared with 13 in 1982. London has the lowest score, on average we only know the names of 5.5 neighbours, (allowing for the statistical half a neighbour) and 11% of the representative sample of Londoners do not know the names of any of their neighbours. However, Londoners come out on top in having the highest number of close friends – they just don’t happen to be neighbours!

*  In 1982 59% of the sample said that at least one of their neighbours often calls in for a chat, compared with only 22% in 2010.

*  The majority of us speak to neighbours less than once a week and the number of people watering plants, looking after pets or holding a spare key for neighbours has fallen by around a half.

*  The number of people saying that they have problems with their neighbours rose from 22% to 44%.

On a more positive note, a significant number of people claimed that they try to keep an eye on someone in the neighbourhood who is elderly or disabled, borne out by the answers given by people who were widowed, separated or divorced. The number of people taking in parcels for neighbours has also increased – it’s all that online shopping!

Yet, it would be wrong to take the figures at face value without thinking about how society has changed over this time, with many more women in paid work than three decades ago and more adults of all ages living alone.  Working only part-time means you typically know two more neighbours and are more likely to be involved in your local community.

One interesting finding was that having children results in having more neighbours BUT less close friends! The analysis shows that statistically, after the first child, you lose half a close friend for every extra child you have.

Ed Mayo, of the Co-op concluded “people are having less contact with those who live in the area, unless they are proactive and go out to engage with people. There is not the bedrock of the garden fence to fall back on.... People seem to have a wider circle of acquaintances and shallow friendships, particularly online, which cuts down the number to whom they feel really close”.

The Co-Op study also draws on other pieces of research, to quote “there is a growing body of evidence that if we get on better with those who live around us, then we are happier and healthier ourselves” Also, the more people get to know their neighbours, the lower the levels of crime in the area.
If you would like to read the report go to http://www.thereisanalternative.coop/streets

It is likely that many more people living in N21 would like to know more neighbours but don’t have the time or the opportunity to do so. Read about The Big Lunch, the neighbourhood initiative started by Tim Smit of the Eden Project here.  July 18th is The Big Lunch day, sadly we don’t have any Big Lunches organised in Winchmore Hill for this year, but we have high hopes for next year.

There are other new neighbourhood initiatives underway to encourage people to get to know their neighbours. The Highlands Village Residents Association Campaign Committee is putting out a leaflet and survey to find out whether people living in Highlands Village are interested in joined a Residents Association.  Further details will be posted on n21online shortly.

The Co-op has just released a report entitled ‘Co-operative streets: Neighbours in the UK, described as “the most comprehensive piece of research into the UK's neighbours”.

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