The study differs from conventional analyses of 'deprived areas' by combining census data with the opinions of residents about their neighbourhood, as captured in the government's Survey of English Housing.
Most people find their neighbourhoods friendly and are satisfied with where they live. This means that even on the most unpopular estates in London only a minority of residents - around one in four - are likely to express high levels of dissatisfaction with their neighbourhood. However, in the most popular areas, such as rural wards in Dorset, the proportion of highly dissatisfied householders falls to around one in 20.
- Districts estimated as having the highest proportion of dissatisfied residents are the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Islington, Hackney and Southwark, followed by Easington (Co. Durham) and Sunderland (Tyne & Wear).
- Inner London, Tyne and Wear, Durham and the former Cleveland are estimated to have the highest levels of householder dissatisfaction at 'county' level. The lowest averages are in Surrey, Dorset, the Isle of Wight and West Sussex.
The study finds that the types of ward likely to hold the greatest proportion of residents who are very dissatisfied are inner city estates, ports and old industrial and mining areas. As many as four out of ten unemployed householders living on estates in the North East voice high levels of dissatisfaction with their neighbourhood.
However, concentrations of residents expressing high levels of dissatisfaction are not confined to council estates. Among home owners who live in terraced houses or flats in the North the average level of dissatisfaction reaches 13 per cent. For householders living in privately rented accommodation in London or the North, the dissatisfaction rating for those in semi-skilled jobs is as high as 35 per cent.
The most widespread cause of neighbourhood dissatisfaction is crime - perceived to be a problem by one in five householders across England as a whole. Other major contributing problems identified by residents range from litter and lack of leisure facilities to vandalism and problems with dogs. Despite this, the great majority of people in all areas find their neighbourhoods 'friendly'.
Roger Burrows, assistant director of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York and co-author of the study, said the 'geography of misery' often highlighted different neighbourhoods to those identified as 'deprived' by the Government's Index of Local Conditions. 'If policy makers were guided by what people say about their neighbourhoods rather than relying on existing measures when targeting resources, then we believe that some areas - for instance in the North East - would fare better.'
He added: 'The analysis shows that householders experiencing the deprivations associated with high levels of dissatisfaction with their neighbourhoods are not only located within the social rented sector. This means that area regeneration programmes that only target the so-called 'worst' estates will miss a significant proportion of people who live in neighbourhoods that they, themselves, regard as squalid.'
Unpopular Places? Area disadvantage and the geography of misery by Roger Burrows and David Rhodes is published by the Policy Press in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and obtainable from Biblios Publishers' Distribution Services, Star Road, Partridge Green, West Sussex RH13 8LD (01403 710851), price£13.95 plus£2 p&p. For further information about the study, contact:
A summary of findings is available, free of charge, from JRF at The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO30 6WP.