SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE
This section of the website draws together a wide range of evidence about the importance of social and cultural facilities and amenities, both formal and informal, and the long term consequences of what happens if these critical aspects of community are not supported.
Five key factors have been identified:
A sense of place and belonging
Opportunities for residents to take part in collective activities
Opportunities to build social networks, with a range of people
Design that encourages people to engage with each other
Boosting ‘pro-environmental' behaviour
Good relationships between residents and a range of local activities - formal and informal - are key to thriving communities. People live complex lives and relate both to communities that are defined by where they live, and ‘communities of interest', based on interest, religion, or shared identity. No one can be forced to be ‘good neighbours' or to become friends, but there is strong evidence that the strength of local social networks is related to a number of outcomes from health to crime. Social capital - the quality of relationships between residents that give a community the capability to be supportive and empowered and a rich cultural life - is important to help people put down roots, feel secure and ‘at home' and develop a sense of belonging.
The identity of a place is rooted in history, in local celebrations, the stories people tell about the area, and in regular local events. These build up over time. When new large scale housing developments are built, the sense of place cannot be defined by its history. New residents will not know others and, in the early stages, there will be few social connections. Many new developments are planned as ‘mixed communities', housing people from a range of circumstances and backgrounds. Often inner city neighbourhood thrive on this sort of diversity - but it is something that has usually evolved over many years and generations. How do you create that kind of richness in a relatively short space of time?
There is an important role for agencies in providing support, especially in the early years, to work with local people to generate the social and cultural infrastructure that is essential for quality of life. If this does not happen, there is a danger that residents will feel alienated from their new homes, mental health problems increase, people do not invest for the long term and move away when they have the option to do so.