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Did your neighbours leave you ‘cheesed off’ during lockdown?

Council asked if it has the resources to conduct more 'conflict negotiation'

24 July, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Council officials and police have charted  a rise in complaints about neighbours on the other side of the fence

THE Town Hall has been urged to consider “conflict negotiation” between neighbours after disputes increased during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Both the council and police saw the number of “low-grade” incidents jump while people were told to stay indoors as much as possible. It was suggested this week that people became less tolerant and that cases of neighbours not getting on will dissipate as restrictions continue to be eased.

Labour councillor Anna Wright told a meeting of Camden’s Covid-19 committee on Tuesday evening that rows did not amount to the crimes.

She said: “There’s a lot that really isn’t about crime. It’s poor relation­ships that have been further exacerbated, and the impact of these should not be underestimated. They can make people’s lives very difficult and can contribute to mental health stress and undermine people’s well-being”.

Cllr Wright, one of the councillors in the Highgate ward, said that while housing teams and police were there for crimes, there also needed to be efforts “to support with conflict negotiation”, adding: “We are talking about people needing help with solving tensions that we could play more of a role in if we had the right resource.”

Labour councillor Anna Wright says experts in conflict negotiation are needed

Police borough commander Raj Kohli told the meeting: “My perception as a human being, as opposed to a police officer, is that the upturn in anti-social behaviour calls is very much about people cooped up at home, whether its high-rise flats or semi-detached houses, not able to go anywhere and their neighbours essentially cheesing them off.”

He added: “We’ve seen this increase in families separating, splitting up, the divorce rates have gone up. All of this feeds into all of that. When people are at home all the time, and their neighbours nark them, they are going to call the police or the council and say ‘we’ve had enough’.”

As part of its communications work, during the lockdown the council has asked neighbours to be respectful of people living next door or above and below them, by keeping speakers away from walls, limiting the sound on television sets and avoiding banging doors.

“I think as lockdown starts to release, that low-level stuff will disappear and what we will be left with is the real sticky ones that have been going on for weeks and months and years, that do need to be looked at,” said Ch Supt Kohli, who said he did not have the “ultimate sanction” of inviting people to move some­where else.

Council community safety manager Shaheeda Rahman said: “When there are issues like this, we do offer our residents a form of indepen­dent mediation. Again that’s up to whether the residents want to engage. Some take it up, some don’t.”

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