Cardiff among top European cities for quality of life, according to EU study
If you were asked to name the most inclusive city in Europe, it’s likely that your mind would turn towards a melting pot metropolis like Berlin or perhaps the famously free-spirited Amsterdam.
But, according to a major new EU study on quality of life in European cities, Cardiff can make a claim to be the most welcoming city in the continent for people from different walks of life.
The European Commission asked around 800 people from 83 cities about life in their community for migrants, people from ethnic minorities, LGBT people, older people and families with young children.
And the Welsh capital emerged with the highest score in two of the five categories.
Ninety-five per cent of Cardiff residents believe the city is a good place to live for immigrants from other countries – 5% ahead of Portuguese capital Lisbon in second.
Cardiff is also ranked first when it comes to good places to live for families with young children, with its 96% satisfaction putting it narrowly ahead of Oulu in Finland, Braga in Portugal and Leipzig in Germany.
The study found that, in both cases, smaller cities were more likely to be considered welcoming.
“Quality of life is higher in small and medium-sized cities,” said Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.
“They feel safer, cleaner, and less noisy. They are seen as better places to live, at every point in the lifecycle – from families bringing up young children, to those growing old.
“And all these lessons have important policy implications. No one benefits when jobs, especially high-quality jobs, concentrate in just a few cities.”
For the first time, Cardiff was also listed among the top ten cities which are a good place to live for LGBTIQ people. A result explained by higher education levels, according to the study.
Overall, 94% of Cardiff residents are satisfied with life in the capital. That puts it just outside the ten cities with the highest levels of satisfaction, which is headed by Zurich in Switzerland.
As well as inclusivity, Cardiff rated highly when it came to green spaces, cultural facilities and low noise levels.
Although Nerys Lloyd Pierce, the chair of Cardiff Civic Society, says not all residents enjoy these benefits.
“Cardiff is often described as a green city but that depends on where you live,” she said.
“Many areas of the city have below UK average access to green space. Places such as Splott, Adamsdown and Butetown are a world away from Pontcanna or Roath, highlighting a lack of access to green space as a social justice issue.”
While the report suggests Cardiff residents have a healthy sense of civic pride, it also highlights problems.
From public transport to schooling, residents’ satisfaction with almost every element of the city’s life has fallen since the survey in 2019.
Only a fifth of Cardiff residents said the quality of life in their city had improved over the last five years.
This is in line with a wider trend across Europe that the report attributed to the stress placed on resources by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which exacerbated the cost-of-living crisis.
“These crises have placed a tremendous strain on the council’s ability to push forward with plans to make Cardiff, a stronger, fairer and greener capital, one which can benefit residents and the whole of Wales,” said Cardiff Council leader, Councillor Huw Thomas.
“But it’s great to see the progress we have made recognised here and we are determined to do everything we can to improve our city for our residents, workers and visitors.”
Another cause for concern highlighted by the report is a growing dependency on cars.
Cardiff is in the top 10 European cities when it comes to car use, with 58% of people saying it is the mode of transport they use most often.
That is above the European average of 44% and an 8% increase compared to the previous survey.
“We also recognise – as the report points out – that more people are using cars here than in many other cities across Europe,” added Councillor Thomas.
“We know this causes air pollution and congestion which is why we are building cycle lanes and improving walking routes, while also looking at new ways of funding improved public transport options.
“We all know that public transport options across the city need to improve if we are to encourage people out of their cars.
“We have never hidden from that, but we will need to find a way of funding what is required, and we will need open and honest conversations with residents and our neighbours on how we do that.”
Overall, Cllr Thomas said the report “is good news and shows us all that Cardiff is on the right track and is a great place to live.”
But Lloyd Pierce said a change of direction is needed to stop satisfaction in the city continuing to fall.
Highlighting controversial planning decisions in Hailey Park and Northern Meadows, she said: “Powerlessness in the face of developers has had a negative impact on many communities in Cardiff, and this is likely to be a contributory factor to the eroded sense of satisfaction with life in the city.”
“The cost of living in Cardiff has been steep for some time,” added the chair of the Civic Society.
“Rents are high, and homelessness has increased. According to the Bevan Foundation, for more than a decade, little to no progress has been made in reducing child poverty in Wales. Indeed, things are forecast to get worse, not better.
“After housing costs have been considered, children in Cardiff South are one of the most likely communities in Wales to live in poverty.
“In many ways, Cardiff is a fantastic city, but there is a huge amount of work to be done to make it a fair place for everyone to live in.”
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