What are Neighbourhoods?

First, a necessary condition is that the people living and working within the neighbourhood see it as a neighbourhood and define themselves as belonging to it – that is an area that has a neighbourly feel. This does not mean that everyone in that area has that feeling – simply that it is a general sense, observable (and quantifiable) if people are asked that question.

Through habit and repetition, people may greet each other, recognizable as people who inhabit that neighbourhood. Indeed, it could be argued that this simple indicator of regular greeting of neighbours is a key method of working out how thriving a neighbourhood is.

Second, a likely condition is that there is a natural reason for the neighbourhood to have boundaries that make sense, porous though they may be. This could be built environment features, such as a street or change of housing type, or natural features such as a river or park.

This could also be demographic or ethnographic realities: many of the great urban neighbourhoods over the centuries have been created by concentrations of immigrants from one country gathered together.

Third, a neighbourhood has a scale that is “human” – that is, able to be walked around with relative ease. Again, this is a very vague concept – there have been attempts to develop 15 or 20 minute approaches.

When placed together, these conditions mean that neighbourhoods are a combination of a place where people live and/or work and where they have a feeling of belonging or identification with the people in that neighbourhood. It is possible that they may overlap with other neighbourhoods, or have sub-groups within.