Wouldn't you just hate those Spice Girls living next door?

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Substantial numbers of people would relish having the Spice Girls move in next door, in spite of the risk of having fans of the pop group parked on their lawn. Many more, however, would regard the five girls as the neighbours from hell.

A survey by NatWest Mortgage Services published today reveals the schism in attitudes to the chart-topping girl group - from slavish adoration among a large chunk of under-25s to downright loathing in older members of the population.

For the survey, some 2,000 people over the age of 15 were asked who would be their ideal or most reviled neighbours. The Spice Girls came ninth in the first category, scoring 11 per cent, but top of the second list, with 32 per cent.

To the mystification of researchers, the television presenter Jill Dando received the most votes (20 per cent) as the person with whom to exchange gossip over the garden fence. (No doubt they questioned disproportionate numbers of middle-aged men.)

Ms Dando shares joint first place with Des Lynam, the television sports anchorman. Close behind are two men separated by age but united by dreamy good looks: tennis player Tim Henman and film star George Clooney (18 and 16 per cent respectively).

Also featuring in the top 10 of "des residents", as NatWest calls them, are television personalities Anthea Turner (bland blonde looks similar to Ms Dando's), Anne Robinson (dominatrix sex appeal) and Chris Evans (possibly confused with someone else).

Evans, more predictably, is number five in the "nightmare neighbours" list, which also includes the first couple of showbiz, Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit, and Jeremy Beadle (31 per cent would slash their wrists if he moved in next door).

Fictional characters figured prominently as unpopular neighbours. Thirty per cent of respondents in the survey nominated the Battersbys, the problem family that recently moved into Coronation Street; other choices were Wayne and Waynetta Slob, Harry Enfield's fag-smoking creations, Victor Meldrew of One Foot In The Grave and Dot Cotton of EastEnders.

The findings gives the lie to the popular perception of neighbours as folk who keep themselves to themselves. It reveals that 92 per cent of people talk to their neighbours at least once a week and 44 per cent speak to them daily.

When asked what they hated most about the family next door, loud music, late-night parties and unruly children were principal provocations. Garden gnomes, noisy lovemaking and "lowering the tone of the neighbourhood" were also cited.

Qualities valued in neighbours included help with do-it-yourself and decorating, babysitting, "having me round for dinner/barbecues" and "keeping me up to date with gossip".

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