The region performs strongly on many quality of life indicators – with comparatively low rates of crime and a vibrant cultural environment. However, despite improvements in overall life expectancy, the region still performs relatively poorly on several health measures.
The place section of the state of the region examines the North East region from a quality of life perspective – but also has links to the economy and the environment.
The place section is divided into the following seven chapters:
- Housing - House Prices and Affordability
- Housing - Dwelling Stock and Demand
Quality of life in the North East
The region is generally regarded as having a comparatively high quality of place. This view is supported by many of the findings in this section of the State of the Region.
Levels of crime and public perception of crime can have a high impact on quality of life in any given area. Communities with low levels of crime and high levels of perceived community safety are more likely to be regarded as having a higher quality of place. The crime rate in the North East is lower than the national average and broadly similar to rates seen in the West Midlands, Wales and the South East.
Proportionally, the North East has lower rates of violent crime, burglary, fraud and drug offences compared with the rest of the UK. However, criminal damage is significantly above the national average.
As well as having social and quality of place repercussions, crime levels are very much interlinked with the economy and as such the North East’s relatively low crime rate is less of an obstacle for our economy than it is perhaps elsewhere in the UK.
In terms of perceived community safety, the region has above average numbers of police officers, a lower than average fear of crime and amongst the highest levels of confidence in police performance and the criminal justice system in the UK. All of which contribute to a higher quality of place in the region.
Culture is an important driver in developing people and communities and contributing to a high quality of place. The North East population has a strong level of cultural engagement with survey figures showing 94.5% of the population had engaged with culture in 2006/07, on a par with the English average rate. The region also has rates of library and museum attendance broadly similar to the rest of the country and above average sports participation rates. However, participation and attendance at art activities and events is below average in the region.
The North East’s varied cultural assets and high quality of place makes it an attractive place for tourists – in 2006 the region had 8.6 million night visits and 74 million day visits spending around £800 million.
People in the North East have similar travel to work times to the rest of the country with the exception of London – which is significantly higher than elsewhere. The main mode of commuter transport in the region is the car or other private vehicle. A higher proportion of commuters in the North East take the bus or walk to work compared to the rest of the country, which is positive news from an environment perspective.
Trends in the health of the population suggest that whilst there are still areas for concern compared to other regions, people are becoming healthier. Levels of cancer and coronary heart disease are falling slightly faster than the national average, whilst life expectancy is growing at about the national rate and remains about one year less nationally. Conversely, smoking has been more prevalent in the North East than in the other English regions although there is now some evidence to suggest that the proportion of the population who smoke in the region is falling.
The region has the lowest house prices in the UK and over the 12 months to July 2009 house prices both regionally and nationally have decreased – although evidence suggests this downward trend is now at an end. Lower median house prices do not necessarily mean that affordability is less of an issue in the North East as the region’s workforce also earns less on average. The North East’s relatively low house prices may also be a reflection of concentrations of high deprivation in the region and a reminder that high quality of life is not evident in every area of the North East.
An attractive region with a good quality of life can be a place where people want to visit, to live or to invest. A challenge for the North East is therefore to maximise its potential. One feature of this should be to reduce economic exclusion, so that deprivation is reduced and more people move out of economic inactivity into wealth-generating employment