Wimbledon Chase shows London how to be a good neighbour

A suburb of Wimbledon was announced as London’s most engaged neighbourhood this month.

The private social network service Nextdoor gathered statistics by measuring the number of times app users thanked each other online, and named Wimbledon Chase as the third most-engaged neighbourhood in the country, behind neighbourhoods in Aldershot and Oldham.

A report by Nextdoor released last year found that London was on the whole the least neighbourly place in the UK, with 68% of residents saying they did not know their neighbours well or at all.

Wimbledon Chase resident Joshna Thakrar said she joined Nextdoor in February 2017, and has since used the app to do ‘anything and everything’ from helping an elderly neighbour with her shopping to disputing Merton Council’s complex recycling policies.

She said: “It’s these little things that make a neighbourhood.”

Ms Thakrar told how a builder living across the street fixed her bathroom this year following a botched renovation.

She said: “I asked him, ‘How much?’ and he said, ‘Nothing, you are my neighbour.’”

Though the builder was not a Nextdoor user, Ms Thakrar said she felt empowered by the community spirit she had gained by using the app.

In August this year, the same builder then asked her what he could do about the abundance of apples in his front garden.

Ms Thakrar made him a Nextdoor account, put a message out inviting neighbours to collect apples from his garden and waited as dozens of neighbours turned up, subsequently sharing apple pastries, tarts and cakes with each other.

She said: “Now he is being recommended as a local builder, and we are all sharing gardeners and good cafes and businesses with each other.”

Ms Thakrar said Nextdoor only allows users to message other users living within a specific area.

She said the neighbourhood really showed its strength when aiding a family whose house burnt down on 19 Oct following a gas explosion.

A Gofundme page was quickly set up and neighbours chipped in to raise more than £3,593, as well as offering beds, furniture and fittings.

Ms Thakrar said: “Within an hour, most of the neighbours knew about the explosion. This would not have happened if this Nextdoor app was not there.”

Nextdoor was introduced to the UK in September 2016 from the USA, where it launched in 2011, and as of August 2017 users were present in 94% of London communities.

Country manager Nick Lisher said: “Nextdoor is not like other social networks; it’s not about selfies and self-expression, but about bringing people together and creating friendships.”

The company last month launched a new campaign called #helloneighbour to encourage users to donate an hour of their time each week to helping a neighbour in need.

He said: “People are engaging over really simple things like sharing a plate or babysitting for each other on weekends — it’s amazing what’s possible when you have the ability to contact your neighbours.”

Ms Thakrar said she felt safe using the app, as each new user must have their address verified by Nextdoor.

She said she has used the app to return lost keys to neighbours, and she has now become on first-name terms with local residents she would previously only say hello to.

Just this morning, she spent time consoling a neighbour who had just lost a close friend to cancer.

As she walked down her street she put other neighbours’ empty bins back into their private gardens — an act she would never have dared to do in previous years.

She added: “It’s all to do with community and helping each other out.

“For example, I don’t have a printer, so I put out a message on Nextdoor and ask if I can urgently print 20 pages from someone. They never ask for anything in return.”

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