Are we forgetting how to be good neighbours?

One in five say they've been involved in a dispute

Neighbours having coffee over the fence

A whopping one in five of us say we've been involved in a dispute with our neighbours in the last 12 months, with noise the biggest problem.

Over two fifths of Brits complain of their neighbours stomping around the house, having loud arguments or hosting late night parties.

Nearly a quarter, meanwhile, have suffered rude or abusive neighbours and a further one in five have had problems with barking dogs or wars over parking.

"The research shows as a nation we're at risk of losing the community spirit we once prided ourselves on," says James Hillon, director of products at Co-op Insurance, which carried out the research.

"Communities are valuable as they allow people to interact with each other, share experiences and develop valued relationships; without communities we're in danger of living isolated lives."

Cities are the least friendly areas, with London and Birmingham having by far the highest number of neighbour issues - a quarter have had problems over the past year. The most harmonious place in Britain is Milton Keynes, where only 7% of neighbours have fallen out.

And even when we're not rowing with our neighbours, we don't seem to have the community spirit we once did. Only one in five of us has ever even popped round to a neighbour's house for a cup of tea - something that television producer Phil Redmond notes with sadness.

"When creating Brookside, Hollyoaks and Grange Hill, each had at its heart a sense of shared community, with Brookside, in particular, concentrating on how society was changing from the cosy 'coo-ee it's only me' world of neighbours popping into each other's houses for cups of sugar," he says.

What we want in a neighbour, according to the research, is somebody who treats us with respect, is tolerant, and respects other people's needs. Being considerate about noise and parking are important too.

And, says Lynn Farrar, chair of Neighbourhood Watch, it's only by being a good neighbour that we get to have good neighbours ourselves.

"Our communities are changing as people lead busier lives, but people still care about the places they live," she says. "Everyone wants to live in a safe, friendly area and it starts with each one of us."

Top neighbour disputes
1. Excessive noise: 41%
2. Rudeness or abuse: 22%
3. Barking dogs: 21%
4. Parking wars: 19%
5. Nosey neighbours: 18%
6. Unruly kids: 15%
7. = Boundary disputes: 12%
7. = Gossipy neighbours: 12%
8. Messy gardens: 11%
9. Roaming pets: 7%
10. Not keeping shared facilities maintained: 6%

Nightmare neighbours

Nightmare neighbours