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Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2009: Sustainable Places and Greenspace

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2 WHAT DO PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THEIR LOCAL AREA?

2.1 In this chapter we examine what makes somewhere a good place to live; what people think is most in need of improvement locally; which factors relate to feeling able to improve the local area; and what specific features of people's local area are related to their satisfaction with the area. The following chapter then looks in detail at what people think about greenspaces within their local area.

What makes somewhere a good place to live?

2.2 People were asked what they think makes somewhere a good place to live. They were given the range of 15 answer options shown in Table 2.1 and were asked to choose the most important factor for them, and then the second most important. These 15 answer options were chosen to reflect areas that previous research has shown to be important to people in making a good place to live as well as the definitions of sustainable places outlined in paragraphs 1.5 and 1.6. They include local factors relating to greenspace and the ambience of an area; the provision of local amenities and services; public transport; housing and jobs.

2.3 Table 2.1 shows for each factor the percentage who said it was the most important, followed by the combined first and second choices. The factor with the highest proportion saying it was most important was 'quiet and peaceful', mentioned by 37% of people. This was not only the most common factor chosen, it was also the only one around which there appeared to be any consensus. The remaining 14 factors were chosen by between one and eight percent of people, which suggests that, aside from peace and quiet, there is little overall agreement about other priorities. Looking at the combined first and second choices reveals a slightly greater degree of consensus. The popularity of 'quiet and peaceful' is underlined by the fact that half (50%) mentioned this as either their first or second choice. The second most popular factor was 'attractive surroundings', mentioned by 19%.

2.4 Although factors related to the general ambience of an area, such as it being quiet and peaceful and its attractiveness, were at the top of people's priorities, the availability of local services and public transport took third and fourth place (17% and 15% respectively). Beyond these top four aspects, features such as the availability of greenspaces and trees were chosen alongside things such as good housing and local jobs. This would appear to suggest that although factors such as local amenities can be the focus of concern in communities, for example when decisions are being made over service provision, the general ambience of an area is of critical concern to people as well.

Table 2.1 Perceptions of what makes somewhere a good place to live (first choice, and first and second choices combined)

1st choice (%)

1 st and 2 nd choices combined (%)

Quiet and peaceful

37

50

Attractive surroundings

8

19

Availability of local services and amenities (e.g. GPs, shops)

8

17

Good public transport

5

15

Easy to get around without a car

7

14

Local green and open spaces

7

13

Lots of trees and greenery

4

12

Good quality affordable housing

5

12

Good places for children to play

5

12

Strong sense of community spirit

6

12

Availability of good jobs

3

9

Good places for recreation and exercise

1

4

Clean streets

1

4

Low levels of traffic

1

3

Pavements/footpaths in good condition

-

2

Other

2

2

None of these

-

0

Sample size: 1482

Note to table: Respondents were asked to give a first and second choice, and the table shows the first choices as well as the combined answers to this question, hence the figures in the second column do not sum to 100.

2.5 It may seem surprising that 'quiet and peaceful' is so much more important than other factors. However this echoes findings from other studies. For example, the Scottish Household Survey (2007/2008) asked people to spontaneously mention any aspects of their neighbourhood they particularly liked without being presented with a list of options. Using this format quiet/peaceful was the most popular response, mentioned by 51%, compared with the next most popular responses, good neighbours and convenient shop or other amenities, which were mentioned by 31%. The meaning attached to 'quiet and peaceful' by different individuals could, of course, vary; it could be about traffic noise, noise from neighbours or about the general ambience of the area.

2.6 Having established the overall priorities for people in Scotland, the next section explores whether the picture set out in Table 2.1 is true for all groups in society. The following section explores the relationship between a fairly wide range of individual, household and area level factors and perceptions of what makes somewhere a good place to live. The factors explored are:

  • Individual factors (gender, age, disability)
  • Household-level factors (income, accommodation type, tenure, children living in the household 9)
  • Area-level factors (urban rural classification, area deprivation)

2.7 The 15 local area aspects asked about in the survey were analysed in relation to the above socio-demographic factors. Seven of them were selected to be examined in greater detail here, either because they are one of the most commonly mentioned factors, because they reflect important policy interests, or because they appear to show interesting patterns across the population sub-groups of interest. The seven factors include two related to the general ambience of an area and five related to services and economic conditions:

  • quiet and peaceful
  • local green and open spaces
  • availability of local services
  • good public transport
  • good places for children to play
  • good quality affordable housing, and
  • availability of good jobs locally.

Age, gender, and disability

2.8 Table 2.2 shows the seven factors and presents the contrast between different groups of people based on their age, gender and whether they have a long-term illness or disability. People's priorities change over their lifetime so views across the age groups about what makes somewhere a good place to live might be expected to reflect this. Although quiet and peaceful was the most commonly chosen factor across all age groups, people aged 65 and over were more likely to mention it than those aged under 30 (56% versus 35%). Young people were more likely than older people to mention: having good places for children to play, the availability of good jobs locally and good quality affordable housing. So, it appears that, compared with older people, younger people are more likely to choose amenities as more important and less likely to prioritise the general ambience of where they live (although as stated above, 'quiet/peaceful' is still the most commonly chosen factor across all ages).

2.9 Although they are not a homogenous group, people with a long-term illness or disability might have different experiences of their local area that could result in their having different priorities compared with people without a long-term illness or disability. For example, people with impaired mobility might have different concerns about the availability of local services to those without. However, only two of the seven factors showed any significant differences. Those with a disability were less likely to mention having places for children to play and the availability of jobs locally. Both of these differences are probably explained by the fact that those with a disability are more likely to come from the two older age groups (40 and above) and therefore are not as likely to have children living at home or to be in the labour market.

2.10 For both men and women, the most commonly chosen factor was quiet and peaceful, however men mentioned quiet and peaceful more often than women as a factor in what makes somewhere a good place to live (54% of men compared with 46% of women). Men also more commonly mentioned the availability of jobs locally (11% compared with 6%). Women are more likely to have mentioned good public transport (17% compared with 12%).

Table 2.2 Perceptions of what makes an area a good place to live (first and second choice combined), by age, gender and having a long-term illness or disability

Quiet/peaceful

Local green & open spaces

Availability of local services

Good public transport

Good places for children to play

Good quality affordable housing

Availability of good jobs locally

Sample size

Age

18-29

35

11

14

14

24

17

17

179

30-39

49

14

20

10

20

15

9

223

40-64

53

15

17

14

8

10

8

677

65 +

56

10

17

20

4

7

1

402

Gender

Male

54

12

16

12

11

12

11

656

Female

46

14

18

17

13

12

6

826

Long-term illness or disability

With a disability

54

10

15

18

7

10

4

457

Without a disability

48

14

18

13

14

12

10

1025

Household income, type of accommodation, tenure and children in household

2.11 For six of the seven factors examined, there were no significant differences between people in different income groups. Indeed, those in the highest and lowest income households were equally likely to prioritise peace and quiet. The one exception was that those in higher income groups were more than twice as likely to mention the availability of local services and amenities as one of the two most important factors compared with those in the lowest income group (22% versus 10%). The reasons for this are unclear.

2.12 We also explored whether people living in flats have different priorities compared with people living in houses. We might expect that as people in flats are less likely to have immediate access to their own private garden, that they would be more likely to prioritise greenspace than people in houses. However, this is not the case as almost exactly the same proportion of people living in flats and living in houses (12% and 13% respectively) chose local greenspace as one of their two top priorities.

2.13 It is perhaps less surprising that good quality affordable housing is more important to those living flats compared with those in houses, 15% compared with 10%. This is perhaps partly explained by the fact that people who live in flats are more likely to earn less than those living in houses and vice versa 10.

2.14 Those living in houses mention quiet and peaceful more often than those living in flats. This is perhaps a reflection on the fact that people living in flats are more likely to be younger than people living in houses since as we have seen younger people are somewhat less likely to prioritise peace and quiet 11. People living in flats were also more likely to mention good public transport compared with those living in houses, probably reflecting the lower level of car ownership amongst those living in flats and therefore increased reliance on public transport.

2.15 There were no significant differences between owners, private and social renters in the proportion that mentioned quiet and peaceful. However, in terms of the ambience of the local area, owners were more likely to prioritise attractive surroundings compared with both social and private renters: 22% of owners compared with 10% of social renters. The availability of local services was also more commonly mentioned by home owners, with private renters the least likely to mention this factor as important. Public transport was prioritised more often by social renters than both owners and private renters. Owners are the least likely to prioritise good places for children to play, 8% compared with 21% of private renters. This is perhaps due to the fact that owners are more likely to have access to their own private gardens than people who rent.

2.16 Unsurprisingly, people with children aged 0 to 15 in the household were more likely to prioritise having good places for children to play compared with those without children. In contrast, this latter group were more likely to prioritise good public transport, possibly due to the fact that this group includes people over 65 who are less likely to own a car.

Table 2.3 Perceptions of what makes an area a good place to live (first and second choice combined), by household income, accommodation type and having children in household

Quiet/peaceful

Local green & open spaces

Availability of local services

Good public transport

Good places for children to play

Good quality affordable housing

Availability of good jobs locally

Sample size

Income

Lowest income group

49

10

10

18

16

8

6

321

Highest income group

50

15

22

11

11

13

9

331

Type of accommodation

House

53

13

16

13

11

10

9

1087

Flat

43

12

18

19

14

15

8

377

Tenure

Owner

50

13

19

14

8

10

9

979

Private renter

45

16

9

13

21

16

7

152

Social renter

51

11

13

18

19

15

9

331

Having children in household (0 to 15yrs old)

No children in household

52

12

17

17

6

11

8

1111

Children in household

46

14

17

9

29

14

9

367

Urban rural classification and area deprivation

2.17 Table 2.4 presents the seven factors by two area-level factors, the Scottish Government urban rural classification and level of area deprivation as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (see Annex A for details).

2.18 While again an area being quiet and peaceful was the most common priority across both urban and rural areas, 66% of people in remote rural areas and 62% in accessible rural areas chose quiet and peaceful as their first or second most important factor compared with 46% and 44% of those in large and other urban areas (respectively). This perhaps reflects one reason why people choose to stay in, or move to, rural areas. People in rural areas are also less likely than those in urban areas to choose either good public transport or good quality affordable housing as the first or second most important thing in making somewhere a good place to live. We might expect that people living in rural areas would in some cases have access to fewer services than those in urban areas, but again, this evidence suggests that people staying or moving to rural areas perhaps do so partly because access to public transport and affordable housing do not top their lists of what makes an area a good place to live (although that is not, of course, to say that these things are unimportant or do not matter at all to people in rural areas).

2.19 We might assume that people in the most deprived areas might have different priorities for what makes a good place to live. SSA 2009 (Ormston & Anderson, 2010) shows that people in deprived areas are more likely to be subject to noisy neighbours and so we might assume that they would prioritise quiet and peaceful more than those in the least deprived areas. People in the most deprived areas are also more likely to be unemployed 12, so we might assume that they might prioritise jobs more. However, as with household income, the differences in people's priorities are not as great as might be imagined. An area being quiet and peaceful was the most commonly chosen priority by those in the most affluent and the most deprived areas. In fact, the only clear difference was that 25% of people in the most deprived areas said that having good places for children to play was the first or second most important factor, compared with between 7% and 12% in the other categories. This may be because those living in deprived areas are less likely to have their own private garden, or good quality public play facilities, and so the importance of public places for children to play is greater. For all of the other six factors there is no clear pattern by level of deprivation. Instead, it appears that those in the 3 rd and 4 th deprivation quintiles have somewhat different priorities, rather than those in the most and least deprived groups. The reasons for this are unclear. (For full details see Table C.4 in Annex C).

Table 2.4 Perceptions of what makes an area a good place to live (first and second choice combined), by Scottish Government urban rural classification, and area deprivation ( SIMD)

Quiet/peaceful

Local green & open spaces

Availability of local services

Good public transport

Good places for children to play

Good quality affordable housing

Availability of good jobs locally

Sample size

Urban-rural

Large urban

46

13

18

19

14

11

5

437

Other urban

44

12

17

15

13

17

12

375

Accessible small town

54

14

16

15

14

6

9

123

Remote small town

46

21

24

9

12

9

9

105

Accessible rural

62

10

16

7

9

8

13

264

Remote rural

66

12

10

6

7

5

5

178

Area deprivation

Least deprived (5 th)

47

16

18

15

7

11

8

288

4 th

54

10

18

8

9

8

11

346

3 rd

60

13

20

15

9

7

7

317

2 nd

43

13

14

17

12

19

11

278

Most deprived (1 st)

44

12

15

18

25

13

5

253

What is in most need of improvement in the local area?

2.20 In addition to asking what people think makes somewhere a good place to live in general, respondents were also asked what is in most in need of improvement specifically 'around here'. For the rest of the following discussion we assume that 'around here' can be treated as synonymous with the 'local area'. The range of 15 answer options are shown in Table 2.5 and reflect the same answer categories given in Table 2.1 for what people think makes somewhere a good place to live. People were asked to choose the thing in most need of improvement, and then again asked for their second choice.

2.21 Table 2.5 shows for each factor the percentage who said it was in most need of improvement, as well as the combined first and second choices. The previous section showed how 'quiet and peaceful' stood out from the other factors in terms of its popularity. In contrast, feelings about what is in most need of improvement reflect a rather wider range of priorities with little obvious consensus. The proportions choosing any of the 15 factors as their first choice ranged from one percent for 'lots of trees and greenery' to 12% for 'availability of good jobs around here' 13.

2.22 In contrast to what people think makes somewhere a good place to live, which reflected a balance between the availability of amenities and the general ambience of an area, Table 2.5 shows that the aspects more commonly cited as in most need of improvement are all related to services and economic conditions. For example, employment opportunities was followed by good public transport (10%); with pavements in good condition, children's play facilities and affordable housing (all 9%) close behind. The first factor chosen that relates to the general ambience of an area is 'more quiet and peaceful' with just 5% mentioning this. Only 2% mentioned that the condition of local green and open spaces was most in need of improvement.

2.23 The pattern in the first column of Table 2.5 is also evident when people's first and second choices are combined. The same five factors relating to services and economic conditions appear at the top of the table, with good places for children to play and good quality affordable housing moving to be ranked the second highest. Good public transport moves from the second to the fourth priority, while lower down the table clean streets moves up from the eighth to the sixth priority.

2.24 Bringing together the results in Table 2.1, about what makes an area a good place to live, and people's priorities for improvements to their local area (Table 2.5), it appears that the features people say are in most need of improvement in their area are not necessarily the kinds of things they think contribute most to what makes an area a good place to live in general. The only apparent exception to this is public transport which occupies a high position in both tables. We cannot explain this difference from the evidence in this survey. It is possible that, in thinking about what makes a good area to live people are thinking of the 'perfect' area. This might explain the prioritisation of peace and quiet and attractive surroundings as opposed to jobs and well maintained pavements. In contrast when thinking about what is in most need of improvement in their own area people may cite more practical challenges either because they think they should be prioritised over perceived 'niceties' such as peace and quiet and attractive surroundings, or because they are already fairly satisfied with the general ambience of their area, or it might be a reflection of what people perceive as being possible to improve. For example, providing more or better places for children to play might be seen as comparably easier to achieve than trying to improve the attractiveness of an area. The discussion later in the chapter about satisfaction with local areas should shed some light on this.

Table 2.5 Perceptions of what is in most need of improvement in the local area (first choice, and first and second choices combined)

1st choice (%)

1 st and 2 nd choices combined (%)

Availability of good jobs

12

22

Good public transport

10

17

Quality of places for children to play

9

18

Good quality affordable housing

9

18

Pavements/footpaths in good condition

9

17

Low levels of traffic

7

12

Availability of local services and amenities (e.g. GPs, shops)

6

12

Clean streets

6

14

More quiet and peaceful

5

8

More attractive surroundings

4

8

Easy to get around without a car

4

7

Good places for recreation and exercise

3

8

Strong sense of community spirit

3

8

Local green and open spaces

2

5

Lots of trees and greenery

1

3

Other

2

6

None of these

5

5

Sample size: 1482

Note to table: Respondents were asked to give a first and second choice, and the table shows the first choices as well as the combined answers to this question, hence the figures in the second column do not sum to 100.

Do priorities for improvement vary across groups in society?

2.25 This section explores whether the picture set out in Table 2.5 is true for all groups in society. It adopts a similar approach to that used with the analysis of what makes an area a good place to live and selects a sub-set of factors to be examined in greater detail by some socio-demographic factors. We have chosen to focus in on a smaller number of socio-demographic factors to look at in detail here as these show the most interesting differences across the sub-groups. This section explores differences by:

  • Age
  • Household income
  • Urban rural classification, and
  • Area deprivation.

2.26 In a similar vein, findings are presented for a sub-set of the 15 aspects perceived to be in need of improvement. The factors in Table 2.6 were chosen as they reflect the most commonly chosen factors as well as key policy interests and they show interesting differences between sub-groups. They also include some of the same factors that were high in people's priorities for what makes somewhere a good place to live and reflect factors relating to the general ambience of an area as well as some related to services and economic conditions:

  • more quiet and peaceful
  • public transport
  • levels of traffic
  • availability of good jobs locally
  • quality of places for children to play, and
  • cleanliness of streets 14.

2.27 In contrast to the findings on what people think makes somewhere a good place to live in general it is worth highlighting again that this section has a clear focus on people's perceptions of improvements needed in their own local area.

2.28 Table 2.6 presents the six selected factors by age, household income, area deprivation and urban rural classification. The first point to note is that although people aged 65 and over were the group most likely to select being quiet and peaceful as an important feature for a local area (see Table 2.2), younger people were the most likely to say that this aspect was most in need of improvement where they lived. This may be because young people are more likely to live in flats and are therefore subject to noisier environments (see Table C.2 in Annex C). Having better quality places for children to play is more important to those in the two younger age groups (under 40), the same group who thought it was an important factor in making somewhere a good place to live. This suggests that this is an area in particular need of action to meet the needs of this age group - not only is the quality of places for children to play seen as an important aspect of what makes somewhere a good place to live, but the desire to see improvements to this aspect is also a high priority.

2.29 Those aged 40 to 64 are the most likely to be concerned about the availability of good jobs locally (26% of this group compared with 19% of 18 to 29 year olds). This could reflect concerns about the availability of jobs for themselves in the local area, and for some it could also reflect worries about the job prospects for their children. Improving the cleanliness of the streets was chosen more often by the youngest and oldest age groups than those aged 30 to 64 (16% of 18 to 29 year olds and 19% of those aged over 65 compared with 9% of 30 to 39 year olds and 12% of those aged 40 to 64). This may reflect the lower levels of car ownership among the youngest and oldest groups, making it more likely that they will use footpaths. Those aged 65 and over only held distinctive views about the quality of places for children to play, a factor that they are less likely to prioritise for improvement compared with younger age groups. It is worth highlighting that this group was the most likely to say that none of the 15 aspects asked about were in need of improvement where they lived. 21% of those aged 65 and over said this compared with just 5% of 18 to 29 yr olds.

Table 2.6 Perceptions of what is in most need of improvement in local area (first and second choice combined), by age, household income, urban rural classification and area deprivation quintile

More quiet/peaceful

Public transport

Levels of traffic

Availability of good jobs locally

Quality of places for children to play

Cleanliness of streets

Sample Size

Age

18-29

14

10

11

19

25

16

179

30-39

8

17

14

22

29

9

223

40-64

6

20

12

26

14

12

677

65 +

5

17

11

16

9

19

402

Income

Lowest income group

12

12

6

24

21

15

321

Highest income group

4

22

18

22

14

8

331

Urban/rural

Large urban

12

12

14

19

20

16

437

Other urban

6

11

11

22

21

17

375

Accessible small town

7

22

9

29

12

13

123

Remote small town

1

17

9

34

14

15

105

Accessible rural

5

32

12

20

13

6

264

Remote rural

1

35

10

27

11

2

178

Area deprivation quintile

Least deprived (5 th)

2

20

21

14

12

8

288

4 th

3

22

12

19

15

10

346

3 rd

8

18

9

24

15

14

317

2 nd

11

12

11

32

21

17

278

Most deprived (1 st)

15

11

7

21

25

20

253

2.30 The previous discussion showed that people's views about priorities for what factors are important in making somewhere a good place to live in general were not significantly related to their household income. Table 2.6 shows, however, that when it comes to prioritising what is most in need of improvement in their area, the differences in priorities between those with the highest and lowest household incomes are quite striking, and are certainly more pronounced than those between different age groups. For example, although both groups were equally likely to cite peace and quiet as the most important factor in what makes a good place to live, only 4% of those in the highest income households prioritised this as most in need of improvement in their area, compared with 12% of those in the lowest income households. Similarly, although people on low incomes were not significantly more likely to cite street cleanliness and quality of places for children to play as important in what makes a good place to live, they were significantly more likely to prioritise these factors as in need of improvement. This may suggest that the needs and aspirations of those on low incomes for their area are not being met.

2.31 People on higher incomes are more likely to want to see improvements in public transport and levels of traffic. There could be a number of reasons for this but they might simply be higher priorities by virtue of the fact that high income households experience fewer of the other kinds of problems that people in low income households face (e.g. lack of peace and quiet, poor quality places for children to play) so while they may think they are important, they are less likely to prioritise them as in need of improvement. Perhaps surprisingly, people in the lowest and highest income households had very similar levels of concern about the availability of local jobs.

2.32 Analysis by the Scottish Government urban rural classification showed clear and, in most cases, predictable patterns. For example, we might expect people living in urban areas to be more likely to want improvements to the general ambience of their area and to the cleanliness of their streets. Whereas, people living in more rural areas might be expected to have greater concerns about public transport. The evidence in Table 2.6 certainly seems to support these suppositions. Perhaps the most interesting point to note is that concern about levels of traffic did not vary significantly across the different area types. And although people in rural areas were not very likely to mention public transport as important in making somewhere a good place to live, over a third of those living in the two most rural areas did choose it as what was most in need of improvement locally. Concern about jobs was higher than average among people living in small towns and remote rural areas, though this was still of concern to around a fifth of those in the other area types. People in urban areas were also more likely to want improvements to the quality of places for children to play, possibly a reflection of the fact that people in rural areas are less reliant on formal play areas as they have more access to green and open spaces where children can play.

2.33 Similarly analysis by Scottish index of multiple deprivation showed broadly expected patterns, in line with those for household income discussed above. The proportions who prioritised making the area more quiet and peaceful, street cleanliness, and better play areas for children increased in line with increasing levels of area deprivation. These findings are consistent with the results of similar analysis of SSA 2004 in which experience of local environmental incivilities such as litter and rubbish, and cat and dog mess increased as deprivation increased (Curtice et al, 2005). Conversely, concerns about public transport and traffic levels went in the opposite direction, increasing as deprivation level decreased. This does not necessarily indicate that traffic levels and public transport provision are worse in less deprived areas, only that peoples' perceptions in those areas are more likely to be that these are the factors that most need to improve. (For full details see Table C.5 in Annex C).

Feelings about different aspects of the local area

2.34 The previous two sections explored a wide range of factors in relation to what people think makes a good place to live and what most needs improvement in their area. This section now focuses in on some of the specific aspects of local areas covered in the survey. The questions covered the following nine features:

  • Availability around here of somewhere green and pleasant to walk or sit
  • Availability around here of places that are safe and pleasant for children to play
  • How easy it is to get around your area on foot
  • How much you would agree or disagree that 'this is a nice area to walk around in'
  • How good or bad an area this is for cycling
  • How much graffiti or vandalism you have seen in this area in the last 12 months
  • How much rubbish or litter you have seen in this area in the last 12 months
  • How much noise you have heard from neighbours or loud parties in this area in the last 12 months
  • How big a problem discarded needles or syringes lying around is in this area.

2.35 The first five of these factors represent areas that the Scottish Government was particularly interested in exploring as elements of sustainable places to examine their possible contribution to satisfaction with the local area. We also know that attitudes towards neighbourhoods are affected by problems in the local area and so we have included four types of anti-social behaviour that could be described as 'environmental' 15.

2.36 For the first three of these questions respondents were presented with the seven point 'smiley face' scale shown below: 16 They were told that each face represented how someone might feel about the three aspects of the local area in question and were asked to say which one matched their own views. The answers to these questions have been grouped into three categories for the following discussion: 'Feels good' (people who picked options B, C, or D); 'Middle' (F); and 'Feels bad' (G, K or L) 17. ('Don't know' was a separate option and full findings for the 3 'smiley face' questions are shown in Table C.6).

seven point 'smiley face' scale

2.37 Figure 2.1 shows the results from two of the three 'smiley face' scale questions. For both items the balance was clearly in favour of those who felt good rather than bad about each item. 78% felt good about the availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk or sit, although only a third chose the smiliest face (category B). However, a lower proportion - only 56% - felt good in relation to the availability of safe and pleasant places for children to play with less than a fifth choosing the smiliest face (category B), echoing findings from the previous sections regarding perceived need to improve play spaces.

Figure 2.1 Feelings about availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk/sit and safe and pleasant places for children to play

Figure 2.1 Feelings about availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk/sit and safe and pleasant places for children to play

Base: All respondents: 1482
Note: 'Don't know' was a separate category and chosen by 2.3% on the 'Availability of safe and pleasant places for children to play' and 0.3% on the 'Availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk or sit.

Active Travel

2.38 We asked three questions relating to active travel, two on walking and one on cycling. Using the 'smiley face' scale we asked people to rate how good or bad they felt about the ease of getting around their area on foot. Figure 2.2 below shows that 87% said they 'felt good' about how easy it is to get around their area on foot although only 41% chose the smiliest face (category B). The small proportion (7% of respondents) who felt bad about how easy it is to get around the local area on foot were asked to select up to three problems that made it difficult for them to get around. 30% mentioned lack of direct routes by footpaths; 25% mentioned uneven or dangerous pavements; 20% mentioned traffic problems; 18% mentioned too hilly or too many steps and 18% mentioned worries about crime or anti-social behaviour 18.

Figure 2.2 Feelings about how easy it is to get around your area on foot

Figure 2.2 Feelings about how easy it is to get around your area on foot

Base: 1469 (All respondents who are not wheelchair users)
Note: 'Don't know' was a separate category chosen by 0.5%.

2.39 We also asked people to what extent they agreed or disagreed that their area was nice to walk around in. This question was included because of interest in the link between people's qualitative assessments about their neighbourhood environment and their health and wellbeing (explored in Chapter 4). However, feeling your neighbourhood is nice to walk around is clearly also something that might encourage active travel patterns. 27% agreed strongly that their area was nice to walk around in, and 47% agreed with only 11% either disagreeing or disagreeing strongly (Figure 2.3), a similar pattern to feelings about the availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk or sit.

2.40 Interestingly, although the SHS shows that only 1 in 20 adults had made a journey by bicycle in the last week 19, well over half (58%) of people thought their area was either very good or quite good for cycling, 20% of people thought it was neither good nor bad and 17% thought it was quite or very bad (Figure 2.4). People who said their area was either quite or very bad area for cycling were asked why they thought that. 50% cited traffic problems, 19% the availability of adequate cycle paths or cycle lanes and 11% 'uneven or dangerous roads'. In contrast, rather less obviously solvable issues such as 'too hilly' (9%) or bad weather (1%) were less common reasons.

Figure 2.3 Agreement that this is a nice area to walk around in

 Figure 2.3 Agreement that this is a nice area to walk around in

Base: All respondents: 1482
Note: 'Don't know' was a separate category chosen by 0.1%.

Figure 2.4 How good or bad an area is this for cycling?

Figure 2.4 How good or bad an area is this for cycling?

Base: All respondents: 1482

Anti-social behaviour

2.41 As part of another SSA module on attitudes to ASB, people were also asked how much of various kinds of ASB they had seen or heard. Figure 2.5 presents the findings in relation to graffiti or vandalism, noise from neighbours or loud parties, and the amount of rubbish or litter seen and shows how much of each they had witnessed in the previous year. Litter was the most common, 23% had seen a great deal or quite a lot of this, compared with only 12% who had seen a great deal or quite a lot of graffiti and vandalism and 10% who had heard a great deal or quite a lot of noise from neighbours or loud parties. Respondents were also asked about the problem of discarded needles or syringes in their area. 63% said this was not a problem at all, 27% said it was not a very big problem and 10% said it was a very big or quite a big problem. (Further details on these findings can be sourced from the following two reports available on the Scottish Government website: Ormston & Anderson, 2010 and Ormston, Bradshaw & Anderson, 2010).

Figure 2.5 Amount of anti-social behaviour seen/heard in last 12 months

Figure 2.5 Amount of anti-social behaviour seen/heard in last 12 months

Base: All respondents: 1482

Factors relating to satisfaction with the local area

2.42 This section brings together these findings about perceptions of positive and negative aspects of local areas, to explore the extent to which they are associated with people's overall level of satisfaction with the local area, after controlling for the individual, household level and area level factors introduced above.

2.43 Although we have numerous measures of people's feelings about their local area, the following analysis makes use of a single overarching measure of satisfaction. People were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with their local area as a place to live on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was extremely dissatisfied and 10 was extremely satisfied. The results are shown in Figure 2.6 below. The majority of people placed themselves towards the top end of the scale (the mean score was 7.3 and the most commonly chosen rating was 8).

Figure 2.6 Level of satisfaction with the local area as a place to live

Figure 2.6 Level of satisfaction with the local area as a place to live

Base: 1291 (all respondents who completed the self-completion questionnaire, excluding those who did not answer or could not choose).

2.44 Evidence from the Scottish Household Survey shows that satisfaction with neighbourhoods is strongly associated with how urban or rural an area is, as well as the level of deprivation. In 2007/8, 76% of people living in remote rural areas rated their neighbourhood as a very good place to live compared with 46% of those in large urban areas. Similarly, those living in the most deprived areas are less likely to rate their neighbourhood as very good compared with people living in the least deprived areas (Scottish Government, 2009).

2.45 The intention of this analysis is to explore this further to see whether the specific features of a local area discussed in paras 2.34-2.41 above are particularly associated with dissatisfaction with an area as a place to live after individual, household level and area level factors such as urban/rural and area deprivation have been taken into account.

2.46 In addition, we wanted to explore the extent to which social trust or the level of community cohesion that exists between people in an area, and the specific factors that people think are in most need of improvement in their area were associated with area satisfaction.

2.47 In order to identify people with the lowest levels of satisfaction people's responses to the question presented in Figure 2.6 were split into two categories: those with below average scores (0 to 6) and those with average and above average scores (7 to 10). Doing this resulted in 28% of people being classified as having low levels of satisfaction.

2.48 The following five sets of factors were explored in relation to satisfaction levels:

1. Individual and household level factors (gender, age, education, income, type of accommodation, tenure, having children living in the household and having a disability)

2. Area-level factors (urban rural classification, area deprivation)

3. Level of social trust 20 or community cohesion 21

4. Feelings about specific aspects of the local area (as discussed in paragraphs 2.34 to 2.41)

5. Views on things that are in most need of improvement locally (1st and 2nd choices combined).

2.49 This detailed analysis is informed by logistic regression analysis, which allows us to explore which of a range of different factors are significantly and independently related to a particular response (in this case, giving a below average satisfaction score). It is especially useful where one or more of the variables of interest may be related to each other (for example, area deprivation and income). Regression analysis reveals which factors are independently related to below average satisfaction with the local area as a place to live, even after controlling for these inter-relationships. Regression models were created to look at which of the factors above were most closely associated with people having a low level of satisfaction with their local area as a place to live. Further details about the analysis and the full output are included in Annex A. The tables presented in this section highlight only the direct associations.

Individual and household factors associated with satisfaction levels

2.50 Table 2.7 shows the factors that are significantly associated with low area satisfaction scores after a range of individual and area level factors have been taken into account 22 but before we have taken account of the impact of social trust and specific features of the local area. It shows that age, education, household income, type of accommodation and area deprivation are all significantly related to low satisfaction. From this we can conclude that both individual characteristics (e.g. age) and area level factors (e.g. deprivation) help to explain people's likelihood of having a low level of satisfaction with their area.

Table 2.7 Satisfaction with the local area by household income and area deprivation ( SIMD)

Below average satisfaction
with local area

Average and above satisfaction
with local area

Sample size

Age

18 to 29

%

40

60

159

30 to 39

%

27

73

203

40 to 64

%

27

73

592

65+

%

22

78

325

Education

Degree/ HE

%

20

80

442

Highers/A-levels

%

23

77

200

Standard Grades/ GCSEs

%

37

63

368

None

%

35

65

265

Type of accommodation

Detached house

%

12

88

416

Semi-detached

%

24

76

270

Terraced housing

%

32

68

258

Flat or maisonette

%

43

57

319

Income

£11,999 or less

%

47

53

268

£12k - £22,999

%

31

69

260

£23K - £37,999

%

29

71

239

£38K +

%

17

83

299

Area Deprivation

1 st Least deprived

%

7

93

254

2 nd

%

17

83

307

3 rd

%

26

74

278

4 th

%

40

60

235

5 th Most deprived

%

57

43

206

2.51 Looking in detail at the patterns in Table 2.7, overall 28% were classified as having a below average satisfaction rating for their local area, the groups most likely to have below average ratings are: those aged 18-29 (40%); those within the two groups with the lowest levels of formal qualifications, Standard Grades (37%) or no formal qualifications (35%); people living in flats (43%); those with a household income below £12,000 (47%) and those living in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland (57%) .

2.52 As mentioned above, evidence from the Scottish Household Survey (2007-08) suggests that area deprivation is associated with levels of satisfaction with local areas. This analysis confirms that area deprivation is significantly associated with having a lower than average level of satisfaction with a local area as a place to live. In fact, deprivation was more strongly associated with low levels of satisfaction than any of the other factors in these first two stages of the analysis. The difference between people living in areas in the most and the least deprived quintiles is greater than for all other groups looked at. 57% of people who live in the most deprived 20% of areas in Scotland had a below average level of satisfaction with their local area compared with only 7% of those in the least deprived 20% of areas.

Local area factors, social trust and what is most in need of improvement in the local area

2.53 Having established which individual socio-demographic and area level factors are independently associated with low levels of local area satisfaction, the final stages of the analysis explored three further sets of factors related to specific aspects of the local area to see if these enhanced our explanation of people's attitudes. It makes sense to expect that negative feelings or experiences of specific features of the local area would be closely associated with dissatisfaction with the local area as a place to live. But are they still significant when factors such as income or area deprivation have been considered alongside them? And which of these types of factors are most strongly associated with satisfaction levels? Only two of the factors presented in Table 2.7, income and area deprivation, were still significantly associated with low levels of local area satisfaction once we had also included measures of social trust and specific features of the local area. This stage of the analysis also found the factors presented below (and in Table 2.8) to be significantly associated with satisfaction levels:

  • Availability of green and pleasant places to walk or sit
  • Level of agreement with 'this is a nice place to walk around in'
  • Amount of graffiti or vandalism seen in the last 12 months
  • Amount of noise heard from neighbours or loud parties in the last 12 months, and
  • Level of social trust.

2.54 In statistical terms, adding the factors about feelings about specific aspects of the local area to the individual and area measures doubled our ability to explain the differences in satisfaction levels found in the survey. This analysis found that low ratings on two positive aspects of a local area 23 and high ratings on two negative, or anti-social, behaviours in the local area 24 were significantly associated with having low area satisfaction scores, even after factors such as area deprivation and income had been taken into account. This means that regardless of how deprived an area is, or what a household's income is, these factors are associated with people's satisfaction with their local area as a place to live.

2.55 As Table 2.8 shows, the groups most likely to have low levels of satisfaction with their area are: people who felt bad about the availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk or sit in their area (61%); those who disagreed or disagreed strongly that 'this is a nice area to walk around in' (79%); people who had seen or experienced a great deal or quite a lot of graffiti or vandalism (66%) or noise from neighbours (66%) in the last 12 months; and people with low levels of social trust who say that 'you can't be too careful in dealing with people' (41%).

Table 2.8 Satisfaction with the local area by availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk/sit, agreement that this is a nice area to walk around in, amount of vandalism and graffiti seen, amount of noise heard from neighbours/loud parties and social trust

Below average satisfaction
with local area

Average and above satisfaction
with local area

Sample size

Availability of somewhere green and pleasant to walk/sit

Feels good (B, C or D)

%

21

79

1048

Middle (F)

%

50

50

94

Feels bad (G, K or L)

%

61

39

134

This is a nice area to walk around in

Agree strongly

%

7

93

439

Agree

%

25

75

595

Neither agree nor disagree

%

51

49

140

Disagree or disagree strongly

%

79

21

105

Amount of graffiti/vandalism seen in last 12 mths

A great deal/quite a lot

%

66

34

135

Some

%

32

68

275

Not very much

%

25

75

460

None at all

%

13

87

410

Amount of noise heard from neighbours/loud parties in last 12 mths

A great deal/quite a lot

%

66

34

109

Some

%

39

61

155

Not very much

%

26

74

405

None at all

%

18

82

611

Social trust

Most people can be trusted

%

16

84

697

Can't be too careful in dealing with people

%

41

59

549

2.56 Previous research has also suggested that people who experience high levels of environmental incivilities in their local area are more likely to have lowered social trust and more negative perceptions of their local area (Brown et al, 2003). This analysis certainly confirms this pattern, as we have shown that low levels of satisfaction with your local area are linked to having low levels of social trust and having experienced graffiti or vandalism or noise from neighbours.

2.57 Interestingly, none of the factors which people selected as most in need of improvement locally were significantly associated with low satisfaction scores for their local area after all the other factors explored in the analysis were controlled for.

2.58 In summary, from the factors we explored, below average levels of satisfaction were associated with (in descending order of strength of association):

  • feeling that an area is not nice to walk around in
  • living in the most deprived 20% of areas
  • having a household income in the lowest 20% of incomes
  • regular experience of graffiti and vandalism in the local area
  • regular experience of noise from neighbours/parties in the local area
  • having a low level of trust in local people
  • feeling bad about the availability of green and pleasant places to walk or sit locally.

Children's play areas

2.59 Finally in this section, we look at whether people with children who felt bad about the availability of local places that are safe and pleasant for children to play were also more likely to score below average on local area satisfaction. The evidence is that for those with children in the household there is an association between negative feelings about local play areas and dissatisfaction with the local area. 61% of those with children who felt bad about the availability of safe and pleasant local play places scored below average on the local area satisfaction score compared with only 17% of those with children who felt good about the availability of safe and pleasant local play places.

Power to improve the local area

2.60 As well as finding out what factors people would like to see improved in their local area, we also wanted to explore the extent to which people feel able to do something to bring about any changes, or whether they feel disempowered to do anything and resigned to accept things as they are. People were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that 'It is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area'. 39% of people agreed or agreed strongly with this statement, 28% disagreed or disagreed strongly and 29% neither agreed nor disagreed. As shown in Figure 2.7, those who agree or agree strongly are more likely to have below average levels of satisfaction with their local area as a place to live. 39% of those who agreed or agreed strongly that it is difficult for them to improve their area were relatively dissatisfied (a score of 6 or below) with their area compared with only 15% of those who disagreed or disagreed strongly.

Figure 2.7 Level of satisfaction with the local area by agree/disagree 'It is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area"

Figure 2.7 Level of satisfaction with the local area by agree/disagree 'It is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area"

Base: 1240 (all respondents who completed the self-completion questionnaire and answered both questions).

2.61 It is not possible to say on the basis of a survey at a single point in time whether dissatisfaction is preceded by feelings of disempowerment or whether disempowerment results from people feeling dissatisfied with their areas. What is clear is that there is a large group of people in Scotland who are dissatisfied with their area and feel that they are not able to make positive changes to it. As before, an interesting question is whether particular groups in society are more likely to feel disempowered than others.

Factors associated with feelings of disempowerment

2.62 As Table 2.9 shows, feelings of disempowerment followed a lot of the same patterns that have been evident throughout this chapter, with higher levels of perceived disempowerment amongst many of the more socially disadvantaged or excluded groups in society. For example, around half (51%) of people living in the most deprived 20% of areas said it was difficult for them to improve things locally compared with around a third (30%) in the least deprived 20%. Low levels of social trust also accompany feelings of disempowerment with 46% of those who say that 'you can't be too careful in dealing with people' also feeling unable to change things locally compared with 33% of those who say most people can be trusted.

Table 2.9 Agreement with whether 'it is just too difficult for someone like me to do much about improving my local area' by age, education, tenure, area deprivation ( SIMD) and social trust

Agree strongly or agree

Neither agree nor disagree

Disagree or disagree strongly

Sample size

ALL

39

29

28

1342

Age

18 to 29

%

52

31

16

161

30 to 39

%

37

30

32

205

40 to 64

%

32

29

35

611

65+

%

45

25

22

339

Gender

Male

%

35

30

31

567

Female

%

43

28

26

750

Education

Degree/ HE

%

28

27

43

451

Highers/A-levels

%

40

30

27

208

Standard Grades/ GCSEs

%

48

29

19

381

None

%

45

32

16

271

Tenure

Owner

%

34

32

31

874

Private renter

%

40

31

26

138

Social renter

%

56

21

19

288

Area Deprivation

1 st Least deprived

%

30

29

38

261

2 nd

%

34

27

35

313

3 rd

%

37

38

22

285

4 th

%

46

25

24

243

5 th Most deprived

%

51

26

19

215

Social trust

Most people can be trusted

%

33

29

34

713

Can't be too careful in dealing with people

%

46

29

21

569

Note: Figures do not add to 100 as 'Don't knows' and 'Not applicables' are included in the data but not shown in the table. These range from 0% to 8% in any single row.

2.63 Other differences worth noting in Table 2.9 include the fact that the youngest and oldest age groups have similarly high levels of disempowerment (around 50%) whereas the figures for those aged 30-64 are lower at around 35%. Social renters are more likely to agree or agree strongly that it is too difficult to improve their local area, at 56% compared with only 34% of home owners and 40% of private renters. Other groups with higher than average levels of disempowerment include women 25 and people within the two groups with the lowest levels of formal qualifications (Standard Grades/ GCSEs or no qualifications).

Disempowerment and aspects most in need of improvement locally

2.64 All 15 of the factors that people identified as being most in need of improvement in their area (1 st and 2 nd choices combined) were explored in relation to people feeling able to do something about improving their local area. No clear pattern emerged between the types of factors people felt were in most need of improvement in their area and whether people feel disempowered or not. Only three factors showed significant differences and for only one of these factors were disempowered people particularly distinctive. They were more likely to mention quiet and peaceful as a factor needing improved compared with those who feel empowered to improve things (11% versus 4%).

Key points

  • The general ambience of an area was shown to be of key importance to people in Scotland in making somewhere a good place to live. Quiet and peaceful was the most commonly mentioned factor, chosen by 50% of people as either the first or second most important feature. Factors relating to the attractiveness of the area, availability of local services and public transport were the next highest priorities.
  • People in the higher income groups were more than twice as likely to mention the availability of local services and amenities as important in making somewhere a good place to live compared with those in the lowest income group (22% versus 10%). In the most deprived areas people prioritised having good places for children to play more than people in other areas: 25% of people in the most deprived areas said that having good places for children to play was the most or second most important factor in making somewhere a good place to live, compared with between 7% and 12% in other areas.
  • There was little consensus in terms of what people would prioritise as most in need of improvement in their own local area. However, there was a tendency for people to prioritise the provision of services and factors relating to economic conditions (for example, the availability of good jobs locally), as opposed to factors relating to greenspace or the ambience of their local area.
  • There were clear differences in priorities for what is most in need of improvement between people in low income households and those in higher income households and also between those in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared with those in the least deprived areas of Scotland.
  • People in low income households and in the most deprived areas are more likely than those with higher incomes and in less deprived areas to prioritise making their area more quiet and peaceful, improvements to the cleanliness of the streets and in the quality of places for children to play. People on higher incomes and in the least deprived areas are more likely to want to see improvements in public transport while those on higher incomes are also more likely to want improvements to traffic levels.
  • People living in urban areas are more likely to want improvements to the general ambience of their area, to the cleanliness of their streets, and to the quality of places for children to play whereas people living in more rural areas have greater concerns about public transport.
  • In relation to attitudes to active travel, the majority of people in Scotland think that their area is either very good or quite good for cycling (58%) with only 17% thinking it was either quite or very bad. An even higher proportion, three-quarters of people in Scotland, agreed that their local area is nice to walk around in and 85% feel good about how easy it is to get around on foot.
  • People were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with their local area as a place to live on a scale from 0 to 10. Over half (56%) of people in Scotland rated their level of satisfaction as 8 or above: the mean score was 7.3 and the most commonly chosen rating was 8.
  • People who are most dissatisfied with their local area as a place to live are more likely to live in a deprived area, be young, have lower levels of formal qualifications, live in flats and be on a low income. The differences between people living in the most deprived areas compared with those in the least deprived areas are particularly striking. 57% of people in the most deprived areas have a below average level of satisfaction compared with only 7% of those in the least deprived areas.
  • People are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their area if they have witnessed graffiti or vandalism locally, have noisy neighbours, have low levels of trust in others, generally feel their area is not a nice area to walk around and that there is a lack of green and pleasant places to walk or sit. 79% of people who disagree that their area is nice to walk around in have below average levels of satisfaction as do 66% of people who have experienced graffiti or vandalism locally.
  • Feeling disempowered, unable to do anything about making improvements in the local area, is linked to feeling dissatisfied with the local area. 39% of those who agreed or agreed strongly that it is difficult for them to improve their area were dissatisfied with their area compared with only 15% of those who disagreed or disagreed strongly. Those who feel disempowered to make changes to their local areas are more likely to be young or old (compared with those in between) have low levels of trust of others, be social renters and not be educated to degree level.