But what about local people, do they share those warm feelings? One of the measures that social scientists use to assess the health and well-being of a place is its sense of connectedness, and how positively local people feel about where they live. In places where local pride is weak, you can soon spot the tell-tale signs: litter, graffiti, petty crime and anti-social behaviour. People just don’t bother anymore.
Where ‘community capital’ is strong on the other hand, there is a lots of voluntary activity as people willingly participate in their collective prosperity, radiating an abundance of positive energy. There is pride and enthusiasm, even passion.
So which side is Ledbury on?
At the height of the superstore question in 2011, we organised some research into local people’s perceptions of Ledbury. We used some standard questions from the Government’s ‘Five Minute Health Check’ to see how Ledbury feels about itself, questions like “does the high street make you proud?”, “if it were someone else’s high street, would you want to go back there?”, “is there a wide range of shops and facilities?”. We also asked people to sum up Ledbury in a word. And finally we checked which side of the supermarket question they were on: for an out of town Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s, or against. Out of 240 responses (a good sample size), 30% percent of participants were in favour of a Sainsbury’s, 10% unsure and 60% against, a fair spread of opinion.
The message coming back was clear and heartening. Most Ledbury people love their town centre and feel proud of it – whether they supported a new superstore or not. Aside from some small variations in age and socio-economic position the main findings varied little between the pro’s and anti’s. The vast majority of survey respondents felt very positive about our town. The cutting nick-name of ‘Deadbury’ was simply not supported by the evidence.
A large majority of local people were proud of their town centre. 60% of people said they were very proud, while a further 24% say they were ‘quite proud’. Just 15% felt not proud or unsure.
In describing Ledbury, 80% of people suggested positive words including vibrant, unique, interesting, attractive, welcoming, friendly, excellent, good. See the ‘Word Cloud’ above.
We asked ‘if Ledbury were someone else’s High Street, would you want to go back there’. This was a useful question in asking people to think about the town through the eyes of a visitor, perhaps slightly more objectively, less coloured by one’s own values and beliefs. The result showed that 70% of respondents said ‘Yes Definitely’ that they would want to go back to Ledbury. A further 24% said ‘Perhaps’ while just 8% of respondents said ‘No not at all’.
No, Ledbury’s not perfect, but it’s clear that people – whether visitors or residents – feel very positively about this place. And it's fair to claim that we are a Community Capital.
Read the full report here.