The importance of green space

Populations are changing and more of us than ever now live in cities or urban environments. For many people this means less access to green space, as these developments have grown with little thought about how the removal from nature will impact residents. But why are green spaces so important?

Green spaces provide huge benefits to physical and mental health and are a place for recreation, a home for wildlife and so much more – they even reduce heat and pollution inside cities.

Unfortunately access to green space is not equal, as lockdown has brought home to many of us. Some of our most populated areas are the most needing of nature, yet this is where you often find nothing but grey concrete and metal. Living in a city shouldn’t mean that the nearest green space is a drive or bus ride away, they should be available to everyone. Adding more green space and bringing nature back to our cities would also be a step towards reversing the declines in nature seen over the past decades and making wildlife a part of everyday life.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight don’t conjure images of urban environments for many of us, but Portsmouth is the most densely populated city outside London, followed closely by Southampton. Of course, there are also beautiful green landscapes, our chalk streams, forests, downland and heaths all nationally and international important for wildlife. But a quarter of the people living in our two counties are residents of Portsmouth and Southampton.

Built up areas are strongly correlated with the locations where obesity, diabetes and mental health problems are the most abundant. And going deeper, there is another level of inequality - BAME people are twice as likely to live in the areas most deprived of green space. Yet there is wide range of evidence showing that contact with nature and access to clean, green outdoor spaces, particularly for children, leads to a lowering in mental and physical health issues later in life.

We must do more to rewild our cities and make sure residents are getting the access to nature that we all deserve. Doing so will not only help their human populations but could allow wildlife to flourish and give a much-needed boost to some species. Watch this space…