Walk to wellbeing; the importance of connectivity through green infrastructure

9th May 2017

What is your connection to your local green space and have you ever thought about the impact it has it had on your life? Whether it’s the park bench you go to clear your head during lunchbreak or the place you feel safe enough to jog or walk in, your local green space and the quality of your access to it is more valuable to your health and wellbeing than you may think.

In the Housing White Paper published in February 2017, the government announced that they intend to oversee the delivery of 25,000 new affordable properties this Parliament and will support developers to explore a new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure. However, the value of green infrastructure as a central component in creating healthy places appears to have been omitted.

The demand for affordable housing is widely acknowledged but there is also an urgent need for great, accessible and healthy places where people want to live, work and play; psychological problems associated with physical health conditions e.g loneliness, depression, and vice versa, are costing the NHS more than £11 billion a year alone.[1]  The increasing demands placed on the built environment and existing health resources by modern urban life need to be addressed as a matter of priority and considered with the same sense of urgency as the provision of affordable housing.

There is abundant evidence to support the theory that accessible and well-connected networks and green spaces in towns and cities improve levels of health and wellbeing through encouraging safe and walkable access between amenities and the wider community. Research conducted around the value of Land Trust green spaces[2] has found that 9 out of 10 visitors feel that our green spaces play a positive part in their happiness and wellbeing and that our green spaces encourage them or others to keep fit and healthy.  The report also found that Land Trust activities contribute the equivalent of circa £90 million to society by providing people with free access to high quality, well maintained green public open spaces, encouraging connectivity and cohesion between communities.

At the Land Trust, we believe that walking to improve the health of communities should be championed which is why we’re marking National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week, both in May.  By providing attractive, accessible green infrastructure and encouraging people to travel on foot, we help create safer, happier, more cohesive communities, whilst helping to ease the burden on public health authorities by providing great quality spaces where people can relax.

We firmly believe that green infrastructure is a critical element of sustainable development and must not be overlooked within the planning system.  We work to ensure that green infrastructure is recognised as a key element of any urban environment which can contribute to solutions to existing and future economic, environmental and social challenges and that it should be embedded in the masterplans and initial stages of planning for new developments. For this to happen,  we want to see stronger and clearer support from Government on understanding the value of green infrastructure within the built environment and to support investment mechanisms for managing it long term.  New communities should be connected communities, connected by a green infrastructure which encourages community cohesion and provides opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of those that live there.

This May, we’ll be celebrating National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week by encouraging people of all ages and abilities to get out and enjoy the benefits of walking on Land Trust sites.  Come and join our Walk to Wellbeing campaign on Facebook and Twitter where you can share our walks, try them for yourself and help us to get more people putting their best foot forward and reaping the rewards of walking for health.

[1] The Mental Health Taskforce’s final report was published in February 2016 and is available at www.england.nhs.uk/mentalhealth/taskforce

[2] The Value of Our Green Space was publish in January 2016 and is available at https://thelandtrust.org.uk/publication_type/corporate/

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