Visiting different neighbourhoods across the city, we have noticed that in some neighbourhoods residents comment on their sense of isolation from the rest of the city, whilst in other areas residents are more territorial resulting from the security and comfort that their local area provides. Across the wide range of neighbourhoods we visited, these two different viewpoints were commonplace.
It seems that many residents are unable to make the most of what the city has to offer, whilst others simply don’t want or need to travel outside their local neighbourhood boundary. Does the city effectively encourage all residents to connect with other parts of the city?
Speaking about connecting with the city centre, one resident in Welsh House Farm commented, “The city has set itself up in a way that excludes the people from the outlying estates; they don’t want people like us to be there”.
For those neighbourhoods who felt isolated, transport appears to be a critical factor. We heard that many residents in the outer neighbourhoods identified the high cost of public transport created a barrier to accessing other areas. It appears that more affordable transport could provide part of the solution; however residents also spoke of other underlying factors, such as the journey time into the city centre in areas like Druids Heath and Welsh House Farm. In the more central area of Attwood Green residents commented on the location of bus routes, which prohibited some elderly and vulnerable people from accessing the city centre. Residents in Firs and Bromford presented an alternative argument; they are isolated within their own neighbourhood because no one wants to visit.
Perhaps, this leads us in part back to my previous blog about finding better ways to promote our neighbourhoods and creating their own unique selling points to improve the outside perception and restore the self belief of residents.
However for some neighbourhoods connecting with the rest of the city is not a priority. In less affluent areas such as Kings Norton 3 Estates, the local police commented that residents suffer from such extreme deprivation that they become territorial over the things they do have, likening the estate to “a bubble”.
Can isolation ever be viewed as a positive thing? Neighbourhoods with strong community groups and a history of empowerment viewed isolation with a degree of positivity. In Castle Vale residents felt that they had isolated themselves from other areas since the HAT days. The HAT contributed towards residents feeling more determined and independent which in turn allowed their community to progress. However residents did also recognise that young people in the area need to go outside their local area to meet their needs.
Other areas in which residents were satisfied with their local facilities were also more positive about isolation. Is it important for female residents in Washwood Heath to travel into the city, if the services already available to them in their local area meet their needs?
Does Birmingham have a responsibility to ensure that all residents in the city are able to connect with other areas to fully make the most of living in theUK’sSecondCity?