The reawakening of our need for green spaces?

As we enter Love Parks Week, our landscape team review how the importance of accessible green spaces has been amplified during COVID-19.

Neil Jones, Associate Landscape Architect
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The recent lockdowns across the globe due to the pandemic have refocused what we hold dear for a happy, healthy existence. Never more so has access to public parks and green spaces been more important to feel connected to the outside world and our communities as lockdown measures have confined to our homes.

Parks for people

Accessible green spaces have long played a vital role within our urban communities. The idea of creating ‘parks for people’ dates back to the 1800s in an effort to stop the spread of disease in areas with overcrowded and substandard housing throughout central London. Green spaces remain at the epicentre of local communities; when all other community facilities around us have been forced to close during the pandemic public parks have remained open, providing a release for the benefit of both physical and mental wellbeing. Public open spaces have remained our communal places, becoming a replacement for our gyms (exercise), pubs (social interaction) and playgrounds (recreation). Mental health charity ‘Mind’ recently highlighted the importance of nature in helping improve mood, reduce feelings of anger, and improve confidence and self-esteem.

Parks for the environment

As well as the vast range of leisure, health and wellbeing and community benefits that parks and open spaces provide, they also offer many environmental benefits including cooling urban environments, cleaning the air, reducing surface water runoff and hosting diverse ecosystems in towns and cities.

Despite all the benefits of public open space there is no statutory mandate for its provision and many parks have suffered years of decline during times of austerity. As we approach further global economic struggles as a result of the pandemic, the planning and upkeep of green open space should be seen as an essential resource, accessible to all and not a ‘nice to have’.

Our role in creating green spaces

Green infrastructure goes beyond just public parks as we know them to also include pocket parks, tree lined streets and squares, green roofs and infrastructure corridors. The team of Landscape Architects, Landscape Planners and Urban Designers at RPS work closely on developing plans to provide, protect and revitalise this vital green network to ensure the long-term benefits to health, wellbeing and the natural environment as well as the economic standing of the area.

We must capitalise on this opportunity to take stock and reaffirm what’s important to leading a happier and healthier life, where our green spaces have played an essential role as intended by their pioneers, particularly in their fight for improved standards of living. We hope to see the inclusion and safeguarding of well connected, accessible green spaces being prioritised within the planning of our towns and cities for the benefit of communities and the natural world.

 

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