POLICY: UK’s Parks and Green Spaces – The State of Play

More trips, to more parks, more often is good for health and wellbeing.

Greenspace Map provides a baseline for monitoring local provision.

Last weekend hundreds of communities across the UK came together to celebrate the UK's parks and green spaces as part of Fields in Trust's Have a Field Day campaign. Thousands of people joined a movement of park users championing the spaces that are so special to them. The events were as varied as the parks that hosted them, from small picnics amongst neighbours to large community festivals with thousands in attendance.

After the busy weekend, the long awaited Ordnance Survey green space map was launched on Monday. This now makes it far easier for people to locate parks and green spaces by using the new database and interactive digital map, identifying accessible recreational and leisure greenspace in Great Britain. For the first time it will be possible to determine an agreed baseline for the quantity of accessible green space - and to monitor how the pressure for housing and building development affects the overall quantity over forthcoming months. Fields in Trust will combine this newly available resource with research currently in progress to identify the contribution that green spaces makes to health and wellbeing outcomes across the UK.

Launching the report Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, said: "Green spaces are a vital part of our landscape and this new database and online map will make it easier for people across the country to access green spaces and lead healthier lives".

Last week also saw the confirmation of Marcus Jones as Parks Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government. He will find in his in-tray an outstanding job of responding to last year's Parliamentary Inquiry into the Future of Public Parks. In the Inquiry report parks were identified as at a tipping point. The new minister's predecessor, Andrew Percy was interviewed by the committee and outlined an approach to the parks and green space sector which Marcus Jones and officials at the CLG will now have to deliver. More requests for support from the department are likely to emerge at Thursday's conference "The Future of Public Parks: Policy, Practice and Research" at the British Academy convened by Leeds University and The Parks Alliance.

Fields in Trust's submission to last year's Parks Inquiry called for a change in the way public green space is conceived, not simply as a drain on spending that requires a considerable amount of money to maintain - but rather as an asset which can be deployed to achieve longer-term savings and happier, healthier more connected communities. We endorse the recommendation that councils should work with their local health and wellbeing boards to develop a green space strategy.

The CLG Committee's Inquiry accepted the overwhelming body of evidence that parks are beneficial to communities – but recommended that more work is needed to specify the real value of their contribution to wider public agendas. So at Fields in Trust we wanted to be certain of the link and the value that parks and green space contribute to health and wellbeing of our communities.

We have commissioned new research to directly address the Inquiry question; Jump X Simetrica undertake social cost benefit analyses for UK government departments, the EU and UN. Their early stage work has found evidence to suggest a positive association and statistically significant link between green space exposure and health and wellbeing in the Defra, Natural England and Forestry Commission MENE dataset (Monitoring Engagement with the Natural Environment).

The data suggests that proximity to, and more frequent use of, local green space produces corresponding increases in health and wellbeing scores across all four of the Office of National Statistics wellbeing indicators (life satisfaction, sense of worth, happiness and anxiety) along with general health.

Visiting every day produces the highest wellbeing scores but the research suggests the optimum use of green space is at least once a week as this gives us 65% of the health and wellbeing benefits rated across the four Office of National Statistics indicators.

In summary more trips to more parks more often is good for the health and wellbeing of UK residents. The completion of our research in the autumn will identify a robust economic and monetary value for these health benefits to help make the case to local councils and governments of the value our parks contribute to our communities.

But health and economic value aside, deep down we all know that green spaces are incredibly valuable, that's why communities came together on Saturday 8th July at Have a Field Day events across the UK to celebrate our parks and green spaces. Events included the Creech St Michael Recreation Ground in Somerset, which was named Best Have a Field Day at the Fields in Trust Awards in 2015. Arts, crafts, activities and displays were followed by live music until sunset. In South Oxhey, parkrun celebrated the site where they meet for their weekly 5K run. Gore Cross Green in Bradpole, Dorset unveiled a plaque on site to mark their recently gained Fields in Trust protected status safeguarding the site in perpetuity. MPs attended in Blackburn and Leith and across the country many councillors heard first-hand about the ways people use their parks and green spaces.

In many neighbourhoods, supporters of the 38 Degrees campaign organisation organised picnics stretching the breadth of the country where neighbours came together on their local green spaces to demonstrate the value that parks bring to neighbourhoods. Tens of thousands more have signed 38 Degrees' petition calling for greater protection for our public parks through Fields in Trust.

Parks recognised in the 2016 UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU! award also got involved with Have a Field Day. UK's Best Park winner Rouken Glen Park had a childrens nature walk, whilst Wales winner Pontypool Park hosted a very busy Party in the Park.

Fields in Trust is championing our green spaces and raising awareness of the positive impact they have on our communities. Fields in Trust Chief Executive, Helen Griffiths, said "Our parks and playing fields are used by whole communities from pre-schoolers to retired adults. Research helps us understand how a local park can contribute to its neighbourhood but the real value of a green space is determined by the local community who use it for play, sport and recreation. Each of the thousands of parks playing fields and playgrounds across the UK is valuable to the neighbourhood that it serves. Fields in Trust believe we should re-value our green spaces as resources which contribute to public health, mental wellbeing and community cohesion, not simply view them as a drain on council finances for upkeep. It was clear from all the activity this weekend that communities love their local park and want to protect our precious parks and playing fields."

Fields in Trust Ambassador, author Bill Bryson said: "Britain has the comeliest, most enchanting, abundant and often venerable parks and green spaces of any country I know. Wherever you are, you are never more than a few minutes from woods, greensward and fresh air. How splendid is that? I am delighted to see them celebrated by Fields in Trust."

 

--ENDS--

 

For media enquiries, please contact Richard McKeever, Fields in Trust Communications Manager,
e: richard.mckeever@fieldsintrust.org,
t: 020 7427 2117, m: 07940 072832

A selection of photographs of Have a Field Day events are available on request.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Fields in Trust is a charity operating throughout the UK to safeguard recreational spaces and campaign for better statutory protection for all kinds of outdoor sites. Fields in Trust currently protects over 2,600 sites, around 30,000 acres of land (12,140ha.) including playgrounds, playing fields, and formal and informal parkland which are safeguarded as recreational spaces forever.

Founded in 1925 as the National Playing Fields Association by King George V, the mission is the same now and as it was then: to ensure that everyone – young or old, able-bodied or disabled and wherever they live – should have access to free, local outdoor space for sport, play and recreation. These spaces are vital to building happy and healthy communities and sadly continue to be threatened by all kinds of development.

Have a Field Day was established by Fields in Trust in 2012 as a way for local communities to celebrate their newly protected Queen Elizabeth II Field. Later expanded to be available to all sites protected with Fields in Trust, in the five years since almost 1,800 Have a Field Day events have taken place with in excess of 360,000 attendees. Following the second year of Fields in Trust's highly successful UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU! award, which saw any local green space eligible to be nominated and voted for by the public, for Have a Field Day 2017 we invited any community from across the UK to participate.

www.fieldsintrust.org | #LoveYourLocalPark