Need for more parks in urban spaces to help with pandemic recovery, says Sheffield Hallam University report
There is a “critical need” for long term investment in parks, particularly in urban spaces to help the country recover, a new Yorkshire-led report says.
The report, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University reveals the major role that parks played in helping people and communities over the past year.
Results showed parks helped to reduce isolation and loneliness, made nature accessible and gave people the chance to exercise safely.
Researchers are calling for the Government to take steps to address inequalities which exist in urban spaces through long-term investment in green spaces including parks.
Dr Will Eadson, a Reader in Urban Sustainability Policy at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Parks matter to people’s lives. They can bring people together and can be places to find solace during difficult or stressful times.
“This research shows us how important parks are to individual wellbeing but also to community wellbeing.
“Investment in facilities combined with long-term commitment to activities that bring people together in parks can make them hubs for community action and local economic innovation.”
Dr Eadson added: “Through our research we also saw how the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of accessible greenspace for thriving communities.”
The research, conducted by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, looked at how people used six parks in England and Scotland, which had received significant investment through the National Lottery-funded Parks for People programme.
The project started before the pandemic was carried on during the crisis, showing not only how parks were used in normal times, but their role as a lifeline during an incredibly difficult time.
Drew Bennellick, from the National Lottery-funded Parks for People, said: "Unsurprisingly, parks provided a lifeline and a breathing space for many.
"People visited more often, had more time to appreciate them and were using them in different ways, often for exercise and to spend time with their families."
Mr Bennellick added: "Many people, even if they used a park regularly, didn’t know how much it had to offer.
"Even when facilities were closed, people were discovering new spaces, opportunities for exercise and play and to connect with nature."
But results also revealed not everyone’s experience was positive.
For a small number of people they reported feeling unable to connect because their local green spaces had become overcrowded and, in some cases characterised by incidents, or fears of, antisocial behaviour such as outdoor drinking.
But due to the majority of reported positive experiences Mr Bennellick added parks provide "critical" social and green infrastructure and will play a vital role in helping the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on health and wellbeing.
He said: "It needs investment by local authorities as well as by central Government to realise a much greater vision for their role in getting us out of this pandemic.”
Over the past 26 years, 900 urban parks have been regenerated through over £1bn invested by The National Lottery, working in partnership with local authorities.
A spokeswoman from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: "The Government recognises the value of parks and green spaces in providing vibrant and inclusive locations for communities to socialise, volunteer, work, and exercise.
"As we move beyond the threat of COVID-19, we will explore how we can best support all urban parks and green spaces, taking into account the Government’s environmental, social, and health priorities."
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