This past weekend the Communities team were in Romford raising awareness on a new development and collecting feedback on what locals think the area needs. The site for the development is currently underused brown belt land, and by far the most common remark from residents is that they want as much green space to be kept as possible. This made me think about one of Rishi Sunak’s recent announcements to make sure that everyone in the UK is at least 15 minutes away from green space or water. The Prime Minister wants the country to ‘reverse the decline of nature’ and make sure we leave our environment in a better condition than how we found it. With increased global warming it is clear that we need to recover wildlife, but I also feel that bringing everyone closer to nature could have monumental benefits for the overall health and wellbeing of the country.
To maintain healthy blood levels, you need 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight per day. If you are part of the ¾ of Europe living in a city, you probably don’t get this. Mental health charities such as MIND believe that not only can being outside maintain a healthy mental state, it can also be used to treat a range of health issues, mental and physical. These ‘nature-based’ interventions are structured therapies or treatment programmes that take place in green spaces, recognising the relationship between nature and health. The Green Care Coalition state that in the UK, adults with poor mental-health or learning disabilities make up most of the people currently using nature-based treatments. In recent years however, these treatments have been increasingly used to help treat dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Exercise in nature can help prevent cognitive decline and increase self-worth for post-traumatic stress and dementia patients. Studies by Barton and Pretty show that in all green environments both self-esteem and mood dramatically improve, with bodies of water having an even greater impact.
Whether is it an estate regeneration, or the delivery of a new large development, many of the developers that our Communities team work with understand this need for green space. One regeneration project involves a council estate just outside of Brighton, where the residents are being consulted on the four different options for the future of their estate. In the drafted plans for each option the architects have made sure that every resident would have access to green space. This has been a big topic of discussion within resident meetings, as the community recognise the difference that this green space would make to their quality of life.
In another Communities project, a growing development is creating a tiny forest for residents. The tiny forest is a revolutionary concept where a plot of land, no bigger than a tennis court, can have 600 trees planted on it. Using accelerated forest development, these tiny forests create a rich biodiversity, while being very low maintenance. Developments that have tiny forests give local residents an easily accessible green space, without taking away from the space needed to build homes.
Our Communities team is also involved in a project prioritising green space in Chessington, where a large plot of brown belt land is currently underused and attracting a great deal of anti-social behaviour. The proposals for this site would address the housing need and highways in the area, as well as building a 20-acre park. The children in this community do not have a safe green space to play and be together, but these proposals would give this to them.
To conclude, I think that it is more important than ever to get yourself outside for that daily walk, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. It is so encouraging to see that the UK government and the developers that we work with understand the importance of being in nature. The success’ of nature-based treatments show that the effects of being outside are much more significant than just getting a bit of fresh air. So please, go outside!
Cratus currently supports a charity, ‘Make Space for Girls’ which has been set up to campaign for parks and public spaces, including football pitches and multi-use games areas (MUGAs), to be designed for girls and young women, not just boys and young men.