Getting To Know The Neighbours Can Make You Healthier And Happier

Property journalist Sharon Dale reveals how it’s done.

One of the best reasons to buy a brand new home is that almost everyone arrives not knowing their neighbours. You are all the new kid on the block.

It means there is a golden opportunity to turn a development into a proper community, one where you know the neighbours and everyone looks out for everyone else…just like the old days.

There are multiple benefits to this. Enhanced security is one, friendships or just a cheery “hello” to brighten your day is another and there’s always the possibility of someone feeding your cat when you’re away.

Sadly, society is fast losing that kind of neighbourliness thanks to our increasingly busy and insular lives.

Good design can help. Strata Homes’ Flaunt development of 113 townhouses on the edge of Leeds city centre includes a meadow and small “village greens”. Part of the reasoning is that these areas are ideal for garden parties and get-togethers.


Strata Homes putting the "village green" to good use at their Flaunt show home opening.

HAB Housing, Happiness, Architecture, Beauty, founded by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, excels at developments that encourage people to meet and get to know each other.

Its Lovedon Fields site, near Winchester, will include sports facilities, allotments, wildflower meadows and a village green. If these amenities are not designed into your area, one of the best ways of helping a community come together is by using social media.

Many areas, apartment blocks and even single streets have their own Facebook page. Of course, this requires one or two households to take the initiative and set one up but it can work wonders. If you establish one then you need to let everyone know about it by posting a note through their door telling them how to join.

Streetlife.com is another social network and a not-for-profit organisation that helps people connect with their neighbours. You sign up using your postcode and it connects to those within a specified radius. There’s everything from crime and lost cat alerts to questions about where to find the best local cafe or tradesperson.

You’ll also be able to get information about local events/societies. A friend from York who is a member recently found a fabulous vintage table and chairs “free to a good home” on this site. She is thrilled and when she collected them she made a new acquaintance. 

So, sign up and tell your new neighbours about it too. The beauty of this site is that it will help tie your new development in with the surrounding community.

It also helps to tear yourself away from the computer and introduce yourself to the immediate neighbours. Knock on the door and say “Hi. I’ve just moved in next door and thought I’d better introduce myself”. It works wonders and you won’t ever have to call them “Whatsisname” and “Whatshername”.

If you want to be even more proactive then the Eden Project runs an initiative called the “Big Lunch”. It’s the UKs annual get-together for neighbours. The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK to have lunch with their neighbours annually in June in “a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

All it takes is for a few people to organise it either in a home/garden or as a street party. You don’t have to cater for all – just co-ordinate a “Jacob’s Join”, where everyone chips in with crisps, sandwiches, cake etc. and possibly a BODAG (bring own drink and glass). 

Visit www.thebiglunch.com for a step-by-step guide on how to organise this.

Nine out of ten people say staging this event helps build a sense of community and 84 per cent say it makes them feel better about their neighbourhood.

This is borne out by academic research. It’s easy to shut your door and ignore those around you but making an effort is good for your health. Research by the Young Foundation has discovered that wellbeing is higher among those who have regular contact with their neighbours, even if it just saying “hi”.

Publish date: 22/09/2017