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Cities must invest more into green spaces, researchers argue

The wellbeing of city residents would be significantly improved if there was more funding into green spaces, according to researchers from the University of Sheffield.

The £1.3m university project worked with planners, health professionals and community volunteers, and created a mobile phone app to evaluate how the quality and quantity of urban green space in Sheffield impacts on the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents.

They found that poorer quality green spaces are stressful and intimidating, while health levels are worse in areas where the quality of green space is poor.

Researchers are calling on policymakers to invest in new and existing green spaces so they meet the diverse needs of urban populations and everyone can access their benefits.

They add that access to green spaces; quality of facilities – including toilets and cafes; frequency of maintenance; employment of staff and support for groups running organised activities are all vital for ensuring a city’s green spaces support the wellbeing of its citizens equally.

In recent years, there have been protests in Sheffield against the city council who have been under fire for cutting down over 5000 trees in the city since 2012.

Professor Anna Jorgensen, from the University’s Department of Landscape Architecture, who led the IWUN project, said: ‘A city’s network of parks and open spaces support mental wellbeing and social inclusion. However, the wellbeing benefits of nature and green space may not always be available to support the people who need them most.

‘To deliver equitable benefits, we need sustained investment in the everyday physical and social infrastructure of urban natural spaces.’

She added: ‘Simple interventions – such as a café in a park or a pedestrian-friendly access route – can make green spaces welcoming and inclusive. Places to stop and sit, facilities such as toilets, members of staff who can create a sense of safety, and social activities that connect with vulnerable or isolated people can extend the wellbeing effects of green spaces to new people and groups.’

In related news, the government this week released further details of the £3.75m Pocket Parks Plus Programme, that will see 200 community-led groups from Alton in Hampshire to Widnes in Cumbria receive funding to help bring parks that have fallen into disrepair back into use, as well as creating new ones.

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