Page last updated at 02:15 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 03:15 UK

'Rise' in anti-social neighbours

Housing estate
Gordon Brown has pledged to send action squads into problem areas

Problems with noisy or badly behaved neighbours have increased by a third in the past two years, a survey suggests.

A poll of 1,200 people found one in five had suffered "serious problems", a level last seen in 1997, according to research for Halifax Home Insurance.

On Monday, an inquest criticised the authorities for not helping a mother who killed herself and her daughter after years of abuse by youths.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

Research carried out on behalf of Halifax Home Insurance by FDS International suggested the most common problem was excessive noise. This was followed by rude or intimidating behaviour and boundary disputes.

The FDS researchers used data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) conducted from 1996 to 2007. They used the same questions for their online survey to extend the data until 2009, and compared the results with the BHPS statistics.

They found that 17% of households had experienced neighbour noise this year, a 34% rise on 2007's statistics and a figure last matched in 1997.

'Neighbour nuisance'

Financial concerns were contributing to neighbourly strife, according to the research, with rising unemployment fracturing communities and causing people to move around more.

It's clear that neighbour nuisance is a real and growing problem that affects thousands of Britons
Martyn Foulds, Halifax Home Insurance

The report said areas which had seen an increase in short-term renting had experienced spikes in neighbour complaints.

Some homeowners said they were forced to sell their house, often refusing to reveal problems to potential buyers.

There was evidence to show the problems would affect the health and wellbeing of homeowners, the report added.

Martyn Foulds, from Halifax Home Insurance, said: "It's clear that neighbour nuisance is a real and growing problem that affects thousands of Britons.

"If the problem gets out of control, homeowners can resort to legal action but there are also many things you can do to try and improve relations without opting for this last resort."

Action squads

Anti-social behaviour hit the headlines this week with the inquest verdict into the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter.

The single mother set fire to her car in a Leicestershire lay-by, killing herself and 18-year-old Francecca Hardwick, in October 2007.

Fiona Pilkington (l) and daughter Francesca Hardwick
Fiona Pilkington and Francecca Hardwick died in October 2007

An inquest at Loughborough Town Hall heard 38-year-old Ms Pilkington had repeatedly complained to the police after being targeted by gangs of youths for 10 years.

The jury found that Ms Pilkington killed herself and her daughter "due to the stress and anxiety regarding her daughter's future, and ongoing anti-social behaviour".

The issue of anti-social behaviour has also been a major talking point at this week's Labour Party conference in Brighton.

In his keynote speech, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:"Whenever and wherever there is anti-social behaviour, we will be there to fight it."

He said action squads would focus on problem estates and protect public spaces in the coming months.

"Recent cases have shown it is time for a better service for the citizen. If it's an emergency, you must get action in minutes. Where it's a neighbourhood priority, within an hour," he said.

The prime minister said 50,000 of the "most chaotic families" would be targeted, with parents facing punishments if their children offended.

In an earlier speech Home Secretary Alan Johnson said while it was exceptional, the Pilkington case should "never have happened".

"There must be no excuses, no complacency, no blaming the media because we don't like the facts they report," he said.

"This case tragically exposes the insufficient response to public anxiety that still exists in some parts of the country, and we need to guarantee consistent standards for dealing with anti-social behaviour everywhere."

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