Re: Re: Erosion of Community ethos in new housing developments
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Car dependency is without doubt a major factor in fostering community development. Even in my own experience growing up in a small estate, every family had just one car reserved largely for trips ‘to town’, and people would regularly walk to the shops/school/church. Now most households have two or three cars and I barely encounter a neighbour from one end of the week to the next. Though it is fair to say that the demographic has since moved up a notch – children act as a great communication tool when they’re around.
But now everyone drives everywhere – embarrassingly even to the local health centre/gym, which ironically must have the largest car park in Western Europe. The demand for parking space around the local shops again is notable, even during the day which simply was not the case 10-15 years ago.
High density housing, or ‘shoebox’ housing isn’t necessarily the cause of lack of community – again one need only look at the thousands of relatively small terraced units built as part of Crumlin’s housing scheme in south-west Dubln in the 1930s (all without car parking provision), to appreciate that unit size isn’t a core issue. Indeed it would be very interesting to note any difference there today post-car boom.
And as Frank and Rory mentioned, wealth in an inevitable factor. Social interaction and community spirit in general has declined somewhat, apparent even in estates like mine or Frank’s that were teeming with life 20 years ago but are now mature quiet places to live, where people are more content with less contact and are more suspcious of newcomers. In my own case, we once knew everyone on the road, but as each house changes hands we gradually know less and less about our neighbours. Everyone keeps to themselves.
If anything, the mindless new estates are those that ought to be teeming with life, but they’re completely car dependant, and occupants./parents are usually commuting for long periods of time. And that is perhaps the biggest factor of all – the fact that both parties in most households now work. Stay-at-home mothers were once major bridge builders in communities, but most women today work.
While it’s hard to break down these social barriers, at least decent planning in the form of mixed units to encourage diverse communities (including a huge single occupant sector of the population), medium/high densities, and local services can all at least lay the foundations for community building.