Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008
Life in UK 'has become lonelier'



Emerson Road, Stoke-on-Trent, and Hatherley Grove, London

By Tom Warren
BBC News, England

People in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire have England's strongest "sense of belonging" to their communities and London residents the weakest, the BBC's Changing UK report has found.

BBC News has visited a street in each city to discover how people feel about their neighbourhoods.

When Maureen Clarke first moved to her home in Stoke 14 years ago prostitution was a big problem.

There's a parochialism about Stoke. Working with young families, I see they all go home for Sunday lunch
Josephine Locke, health worker

And an aggressive incident involving a drunken sex worker convinced Mrs Clarke to join her local residents association on the Grange Estate to try and make a difference.

Today the 64-year-old former nurse is its chairwoman and said increased policing had helped improve the area around her home in Emerson Road.

Mrs Clarke, who now works as a security caretaker at Cobridge Community Centre, said despite problems on the estate, including drugs and racial tension, there was a strong sense of community.

"There's a lot of people who identify themselves with the estate, a lot of people have lived here their whole lives."

Most neighbours on Emerson Road know each other, she said.

"I've just lost my neighbour who lived next door to me, she was 86.

"I did a lot for her her, I used to take her shopping and we went out for meals."

Maureen Clarke
Maureen Clarke said she knew most of her neighbours

Peter Ndowa, 38, a mature student from Zimbabwe, lives a few doors down from Mrs Clarke with his wife Monica and their two children and knows his neighbour well after five years.

"The first few days here were a bit scary, but at the moment I think it's extremely fine, I feel very safe here."

Fellow resident Christine Machin, 39, a mother-of-three, has lived on the road for 19 years and was born nearby.

"I know my neighbours, I've had plenty of opportunities [to leave] but I've never gone, I think I'm part of the fixtures and fittings now."

Kebab house worker Ejaz Mohammed, 28, moved into Emerson Road about a year ago with his wife and daughter and agrees there is a good community.

Peter Ndowa
Peter Ndowa moved to Stoke from Zimbabwe five years ago

Many people never leave Stoke, fostering a strong sense of belonging, said health worker Josephine Locke.

"There's a parochialism about Stoke. Working with young families, I see they all go home for Sunday lunch."

Mrs Locke said a tight community had negative implications as well.

"Not realising there's a whole world outside Stoke-on-Trent, aspirations are low," she added.

That is not something that can be said for the residents of Hatherley Grove, in Bayswater, London.

Short-term rents

The affluent area is popular with young professionals looking for rental flats with good access to the city centre.

Susan Moffat, from Brutens Estate Agents, in Notting Hill Gate, said Hatherley Grove attracted people who wanted properties for six months to a year.

Valentina Dorsa
Valentina Dorsa said living in London was a "short term" thing

"I think it's an ever popular area because of the convenient location and Tube stop nearby."

But the street is not a neighbourly place, according to some of the residents.

Valentina Dorsa, a 26-year-old textile designer, has lived there for two years but is planning to move to Surrey with her husband Karl, who works in IT.

"I always saw this as a short-term thing. It's not the nicest road, I think there's a brothel nearby and there's lots of construction going on here at the moment," Ms Dorsa said.

'London lonely'

Despite living in Hatherley Grove for three years, Albert Geh said he knew hardly any of his neighbours.

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"Here is good but I'm only renting, I would like to buy somewhere," said the 60-year-old energy firm employee.

Builder Nadem Lehussen moved to the street two months ago and has not yet spoken to any neighbours.

But unlike others, the 36-year-old said he would like to live there for a long time.

Professor Danny Dorling from The University of Sheffield, who produced the Changing UK report for the BBC, said tables of "anomie" - a sociological term for not belonging - showed people in some affluent areas were more likely to suffer stronger feelings of isolation.

"You don't have a contact group, you are unlikely to have many friends or family nearby," he said.

"Any part of London which collects people in that situation is going to be lonelier."

The researchers used Census data from all UK households and other statistics to put together the report, which was aimed at finding out how the UK has changed since the 1960s.



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