Happier, safer and more neighbourly: life on new housing developments

2nd October 2012

As the Government seeks to unleash the biggest housebuilding programme in a generation, research commissioned by the Berkeley Group reveals that new housing can quickly create strong communities where people enjoy happier, safer and more neighbourly lives. The results of this major study challenge the popular stereotype that new developments are less sociable and attractive places to live than older, more established communities.

Four developments across London and the South-East, built in the last ten years, were independently assessed. Residents were surveyed face to face and the results compared to benchmarks for comparable places. The findings show that:

  • They feel they belong
  • They regularly talk to their neighbours
  • They plan to stay in the community
  • They report greater feelings of safety walking alone during the day and the night

When the results of the 598 responses are compared against all people nationally, Berkeley residents emerge as being:

  • more likely to report feeling reasonably happy
  • more likely to feel safe

Rob Perrins, Managing Director of the Berkeley Group, said:

"We urgently need more homes in Britain. But we have to create successful places, not just build more housing. This research shows it can be done and crucially provides a way to measure, for the first time, people's quality of life and the strength of community on new developments".

The four developments represent a range of different types of community. They include an urban regeneration scheme (Imperial Wharf built on previously contaminated land in Fulham), urban apartments (Empire Square in Southwark), suburban living (The Hamptons in Surrey) and a rural development (Knowle Village in Hampshire).

The Berkeley Group now intends to trial the framework on a number of sites pre-planning or in the early stages of development and then roll-out this approach across the business, building social sustainability into the way it approaches every site. 

Using this framework allows everyone involved in housing provision - from property developers to housing associations and local authorities - to identify where interventions and investments in services, support for social life, or design improvements, can have the most impact on people's quality of life. 

The report 'Creating strong communities: how to measure the social sustainability of new housing developments' can be downloaded at www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/sustainability.

Notes to Editors

  1. The research was conducted by Social Life (www.social-life.com) with Professor Tim Dixon of Reading University. Residents' surveys were undertaken by ComRes, a member of the British Polling Council. 
  2. High res images of each development and residents who live there are available on request.
  3. The Berkeley Group is a mixed-use residential developer and FTSE 250 company. It is made up for 5 autonomous businesses: St George, St James, Berkeley, Berkeley First, and St Edward. It was voted Britain's Most Admired Company across all industries in 2011 and Housebuilder of the Year in 2010 and 2011.
  4. Social Life is a new social enterprise created by the Young Foundation in 2012. Social Life's expertise is in the social dimensions of placemaking and sustainability.

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