Life Survey - helping shape the future of our region

Four 'cartoon style' images of people meeting, discussing, working to come up with ideas

A Lancaster University project, capturing an in-depth picture of how people live and work in two northern local authority districts, will help shape the future of the area.

The ‘Beyond Imagination Life Survey’, a project undertaken by ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University’s design-led lab research laboratory, is helping local district councils, including Lancaster City Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, to find out more about the people living in their areas and, more importantly, gather their thoughts on a range of topics.

The results of the ‘Beyond Imagination Life Survey’ provide a large data set from which the summary findings and six case studies are launched today.

A snapshot of the findings….

· Residents of both Blackburn with Darwen and the Lancaster district feel a strong sense of belonging to their area, rating it as a place where neighbours look out for each other and different backgrounds get on together.

· Residents in the Lancaster district are more concerned about climate change than those in Blackburn with Darwen and are, therefore, they say, more likely to always do environmentally friendly activities such as recycling, composting and not driving for short distances.

· Lancaster district residents are more likely to drink often – but are almost more likely to exercise frequently and for longer periods of time than residents in Blackburn with Darwen.

· And Blackburn with Darwen residents are more likely to have mobile or satellite broadband compared to Lancaster residents.

· Lancaster district residents say they prioritise health services, public transport and cultural facilities

· Blackburn with Darwen residents stated that they prioritise clean streets, facilities for children, and race relations

Headed by ImaginationLancaster’s Director of Research Professor Leon Cruickshank, the survey of almost 3,000 residents, 1,600 of whom were from the Lancaster district, has gathered a representative picture of views, attitudes and experiences, which will inform council policy and planning for the future as well as informing future research projects.

The survey questionnaire was jointly constructed by council officers working with ImaginationLancaster academics and a leading provider of market research services, BMG Research, to identify the key questions.

The research used an online and face-to-face methodology.

People were asked a range of questions about health and wellbeing; wealth and opportunity; sustainability, transport and travel together with a section on how they feel about their local area, local services and amenities.

Wide-ranging topics covered everything from crime to council services and from social media usage to accommodation conditions to build the community pictures.

The research is part of the University’s ImaginationLancaster £13.2m Beyond Imagination project, funded by Research England and Lancaster University to explore how cutting-edge design research can create a healthier, more prosperous and sustainable world.

Working closely with local stakeholders was a key element of the strategy for Beyond Imagination and talks took place with Lancaster City and Blackburn with Darwen Councils to consider how the project could contribute to local priorities and support the councils’ work.

Professor Cruickshank said: “Seeing the initial reports from the data has highlighted surprising similarities between the two councils as well as differences.

“Both councils view the differences as a strength, which will help inform policy and plans going forward, and they will work together to see how they can use these to test initiatives across both areas and continue working together for the benefit of all their communities.

“This data is not only useful now but will show true value over the months and years to come.”

Councillor Caroline Jackson, the leader of Lancaster City Council, said: "It’s really encouraging that the majority of people in our district are happy with their lives and have a strong sense of belonging.

“As public expenditure comes under increasing pressure, it is all the more important that we, and our partners, focus on the things that local people say are important to them and the results of this survey will prove invaluable in developing our future priorities.”

Councillor Damian Talbot, Executive Member for Public Health, Prevention and Wellbeing at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We know that our communities in Blackburn with Darwen have a real pride and it has always been a place where people look out for each other, so it is very encouraging to see this confirmed in the survey.

“It is really valuable to find out what is important for people in our borough and his will help us to look at our plans in the future and help us with our plans for the years ahead.”

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