A new report from Co-op Insurance – one of our valued NW sponsors – entitled ‘A portrait of the modern British community’ provides a striking snapshot into neighbourliness and the changing shape of communities in 2016.

The research finds:

  • One in five Brits have been involved in a neighbour dispute
  • Almost half (46%) of these disputes are still unresolved
  • London & Birmingham has by far the highest number of nuisance neighbours, whilst Milton Keynes most harmonious
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of Brits wouldn’t regard their neighbour as a friend
  • Only one in five Brits (19%) have been invited round for a cup of tea
  • Behaving respectfully at all times is the top neighbour trait that characterises a good neighbour

The study also found that one in five Brits have been involved in a dispute with their neighbour in the last twelve months. Almost half (46%) are still unresolved, whilst one in ten Brits have even moved house to escape the dispute.

Of those who have experienced nuisance neighbours, excessive noise was by far the biggest single cause of residential issues nationally, with over two thirds of Brits (41%) experiencing noise related issues, including stomping around the house, loud arguments and late night parties. Nearly one in four (22%) have suffered rude or abusive neighbours and a further 21% have had problems with barking dogs or wars over parking (19%).

Top neighbour disputes

1 Excessive noise 41%
2 Rudeness or abuse 22%
3 Barking dogs 21%
4 Parking wars 19%
5 Nosey neighbours 18%
6 Unruly kids 15%
7 = Boundary disputes 12%
7 = Gossipy neighbours 12%
8 Messy gardens which blight the community 11%
9 Roaming pets 7%
10 Not keeping shared facilities maintained 6%

Regionally, London and Birmingham has by far the highest number of neighbour issues, with a quarter (25%) of those questioned saying they have encountered some form of nuisance neighbour during the past year. The most harmonious place in Britain is Milton Keynes, with only 7% of those asked recording a dispute with their neighbour, compared with the national average of 20% – perhaps a legacy of its new town status.

The research shows Brits’ ideal neighbour would behave respectfully at all times and is the top trait that characterises a good neighbour (77%), followed by being tolerant and understanding of other residents’ needs (75%).

The blueprint of a good neighbour
1 Showing respectful behaviour at all times 77%
2 Being tolerant and understanding of other residents needs 75%
3 Being considerate by not making too much noise 74%
4 Parking considerately 72%
5 Not playing music loudly 68%
6 Keeping their homes, communal areas and garden in good condition at all times 58%
7 = Taking responsibility for their pets and not allowing them to disturb other people 55%
7 = Assisting you when necessary 55%
8 Exercising responsibility for their children’s behaviour and also any visitors 49%
9 Bringing in the bins / taking your bins out if you’re away 47%
10 Looking after your house in your absence 46%

With 99% of the population having neighbours, you’re almost sure to always find someone living next door, however nearly one in twenty Brits go a month without ever seeing their neighbour, whilst for 12% of Brits they wouldn’t even know who their neighbours were if they bumped into them on their street.

Gone are the days when neighbours would have homely conversations over the garden fence or nip round for a brew and a natter, as only one in three Brits (19%) have been invited round for a cup of tea. Surprisingly it’s men who are most likely to have visited a neighbour’s house, with over two-thirds (68%) admitting to stepping foot inside their neighbours home, in comparison to only 65% of females.

A generation gap is also apparent as half of under 35s have never set foot inside a neighbour’s house, in comparison to four out of five (77%) of over 55s who have.
We are of course a nation famed for our politeness but could our ‘British reserve’ actually be putting that polite reputation on the line? It would seem so, as less than 30%, of Brits would go round and introduce themselves to new neighbours, with nearly half (48%) preferring to just bump into them, while one in six (16%) would do nothing and almost one in twenty (3%) would just ignore them completely. Although over 75s are more than twice as likely (48%) to introduce themselves compared to under 35-year-olds (20%).

“The research shows as a nation we’re at risk of losing the community spirit we once prided ourselves on. Strengthening our communities whilst making them safer places to live is firmly at the heart of the Co-op. Communities are valuable as they allow people to interact with each other, share experiences and develop valued relationships . Without communities we’re in danger of living isolated lives. However, as our life’s both in and away from the home, become ever busier and we spend more time engaged with technology – TV, the internet and social media, its seems we are becoming ever-more distant from our closest neighbours. As a nation we need come together, lose the British stiff upper lip and engage with our neighbours, who in time may become friends.”

James Hillon, Director of Products at Co-op Insurance

“When creating Brookside, Hollyoaks and Grange Hill each had at its heart a sense of shared community, with Brookside, in particular, concentrating on how society was changing from the cosy ‘coo-ee it’s only me’ world of neighbours popping into each other’s houses for cups of sugar, as depicted by Corrie or Emmerdale. Life has continued to change and that cosy world has long gone, but unfortunately our soaps still seem to portray an outdated notion of neighbourhood life, as the Co-op Insurance research suggests British people are becoming increasingly isolated from their local communities, as more than half of the nation say they do not feel a part of a community.”

Television producer Phil Redmond

“Our communities are changing as people lead busier lives, but people still care about the places they live. Everyone wants to live in a safe, friendly area and it starts with each one of us. Being a good neighbour is the first step in having good neighbours. Joining Neighbourhood Watch is one way you can contribute to keeping your neighbourhood a safe and good place to live. We’re delighted to have the support of Co-op, as we work together to make the Neighbourhood Watch movement more relevant in today’s society."

Lynn Farrar, Chair of Neighbourhood Watch


Notes to editors:
*Research conducted by ICM Unlimited questioning 2,000 people in July 2016