The true value of good neighbours

There is no such thing as a neighbour survey but perhaps there should be.
There is no such thing as a neighbour survey but perhaps there should be.
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Robin and Patricia Silver

The Home, Salts Mill, Saltaire

Between 1900 and the 2000, the average life expectancy rate in Britain almost doubled to just under 80 years. One key factor was the huge reduction in the infant mortality rate. This was largely due to improved medical care and new treatments.

Indeed, improved clinical procedures and new drugs for people of all ages became more available and vaccination irradicated or reduced many diseases.

In addition, the housing stock improved hugely. Large swathes of back-to-back housing and tenement buildings were demolished, sanitary facilities were built, coal fires were replaced with gas fires and central heating. The Clean Air Act of 1956 was in response to London’s Great Smog of 1952 and created a more healthy environment.

With the growth in home ownership (today over 70 per cent compared to just 20 per cent a century ago), there has been a drive to provide a better and healthier physical environment and now central heating, double glazing and better rubbish storage are taken for granted.

Alongside this, we seek professional advice about buying a home with a building survey highly recommended. Electrical, gas and water purity surveys can be commissioned and details of contaminated land, proximity to hazards and actual and potential planning developments can be ascertained. More recently, broadband speed confirmation is being checked.

What is surprising is that we rarely carry out a survey of neighbours. Of course, the neighbours you have when you first move into a home are not necessarily going to be there for the years ahead but one characteristic of a friendly street is that people live there a long time. Indeed, places where children choose to live alongside their parents or other family members indicate a strong sense of community and neighbourliness.

Of course, you can’t choose your neighbours but you can find out if they are like minded and encourage friends and family to buy into your road when vacancies appear.

Anyone who has suffered from the antisocial behaviour of neighbours, especially those with adjoining properties or in apartments where you have neighbours above, below and to the sides, will recognise the pain and suffering caused by those who repeatedly throw all night parties with loud music, persistently slam doors, amass rubbish that attract vermin and continually shriek at each other.

Then there are those who are just inconsiderate. They practise their musical instruments when you’re trying to sleep, are late night DIY enthusiasts or keen gardeners who mow lawns at the crack of dawn.

Good neighbourliness should mean that you can approach them to explain the problem without upset or retaliation.

Fortunately, most neighbours are good. Recently, when a family moved into their new home in York, they asked their neighbour if they could put some unwanted packaging into their dustbin as theirs was full. Within minutes, the word had spread and half a dozen other neighbours offered space in their bins.

That street boasts residents who have lived there since the 1950s and clearly like it and want to stay.

Robert Frost’s 1914 poem famously tells us and then questions whether “good fences make good neighbours.” More importantly, good neighbours can become good friends. And having good friends can help extend your life expectancy.