The South West is the place to be for a sense of community, a new research report has shown. The study, which surveyed 1,000 adults in the South West and interviewed community experts, found that 70% – that’s 3.8 million people across the region – think that their local area has a good sense of community spirit. Additionally, two thirds of people (67%) in the West Country state that living somewhere with a good sense of community is something that really matters to them.
To get a picture of how people in the South West view life in their region and their feelings towards the communities they are part of, the Community Spirit in the South West report was commissioned by the Sherford Consortium; the partnership of developers – Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey – responsible for creating a major new town in Devon.
It uncovers remarkably positive sentiments about life in the region, with more than two-thirds of South West adults (69%) describing their community as ‘friendly’ and an overwhelming majority feeling they live in an ‘inclusive’ area. Also depicted as ‘active’ and ‘supportive’ places; regardless of where in the South West they hail, people in the region value their local communities and are keen to have a role within them.
Participation in activities at the heart of community life helps people feel included and part of something greater, and the report shows that more people are active in their communities than not (55% vs. 39%). Almost half (46%) use local amenities regularly; a further quarter (26%) attend/help to run community events; and a fifth are regular attendees or members of local groups (20%).
While more than a quarter (28%) of people in the West Country feel that community spirit is much the same now as it was when they were a child, there is rose-tinted view of the past, with more than a third (35%) saying our sense of community spirit has grown weaker over time. However, one in 10 is adamant that there is now a stronger sense of community spirit now.
Of those who say that community spirit has improved or stayed much the same since their youth, the top three reasons they give are that their communities still share the same values (45%); local people still know each other and socialise (34%); and the community feels safe and secure (33%).
Clare Brimble, from the Sherford Consortium, said: “We commissioned this report to see how people perceive their local communities and what elements they hold dear. We found that while life may not always be easy for people, they draw strength from their local communities, which have a strong sense of unity and cohesion. Community spirit is still present and valued in the South West – and something the region seems to have in abundance.
“We are creating a substantial new community from scratch and are committed to getting it right. The town of Sherford will be home to 12,000 people, four schools, numerous businesses, community facilities and huge community parkland. The research gave us some strong indicators of the features people feel are necessary to help a community to function. We’ll be taking this on board alongside our own extensive measures to ensure this will be one of the South West’s most vibrant and successful communities.”
More data from the Community Spirit in the South West report:
Men are slightly more inclined to say community spirit has been lost over the years, while women are somewhat more likely to say it has grown stronger.
The full Community Spirit in the South West report is available at www.sherford.org.
* Latest ONS data estimates the South West population to stand at 5,423,303.
Community expert case studies available on request.
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04 August 2016