Recreation Spaces: Urban Areas

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of increasing green public spaces in urban areas on (a)(i) physical and (ii) mental health and (b) the environment.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There is good and growing evidence that connecting people with green space can deliver positive health outcomes through the prevention of mental ill-health, as an alternative option for managing mild to moderate mental health conditions and in some cases supporting the management of more severe conditions. It can also deliver important benefits for recreation, physical health, social well-being and employment.

Green social prescribing links people to nature-based interventions and activities. We have recently been awarded £4.27 million from HM Treasury’s Shared Outcomes Fund to deliver a joint project with the Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, NHS England, Public Health England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to test green social prescribing in four pilot locations, run national experimental work to understand its scalability and deliver a robust project evaluation. The project will test how to increase use and connectivity to green social prescribing services in order to improve mental health outcomes, reduce health inequalities, reduce demand on the health and social care system, and develop best practice in making local systems more resilient and accessible.

Natural England and Public Health England have published a Rapid Scoping Review of Health and Wellbeing Evidence for the National Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards, which was undertaken by the University of Exeter.

Green Infrastructure includes greenspace such as parks and woodlands but also other environmental features such as street trees, hedgerows and green walls and roofs. It also includes blue infrastructure, such as canals, rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and their borders. Natural England is working with Defra and other partners and stakeholders to develop a National Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards. This will show what good green infrastructure looks like and help all local authorities, developers and communities to improve provision in their area.

Well-designed and managed green public spaces and other green infrastructure provide multiple benefits at a range of scales. They can contribute to biodiversity recovery, sequester carbon, absorb surface water, cleanse pollutants, absorb noise and reduce high temperatures.

Defra and Natural England have made use of a wide body of evidence to understand the potential environmental effects of increasing green infrastructure in urban areas.

The Office for National Statistics has produced the UK Natural Capital: Urban Accounts in partnership with Defra, which quantify the value of cooling, removal of air pollution, carbon removal, noise mitigation and recreation from urban green space.

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