Inclusive green space that benefits all need to be informed by diverse views and experiences. Developers and local authorities (LAs) should have an advanced level of awareness of the social impact of urban greenspace. Would you like to represent your community to inform the thinking of developers and LAs? 

By Sevda Ozsezer-Kurnuc, Project Manager of BlueGreen Impact project and the Evaluation and Impact Officer of MHDT

Imagine you have all around you the beauties of nature. You are at a park and bought a cup of coffee from your favourite café. You are lying on the grass, breathing the fresh air, and relaxing. The elderly are walking around, and the youngsters are exercising. Kids are also there. They are playing cricket and badminton. You see a young couple wandering around a canal! Birds are keeping you company with their singing. Squirrels are climbing to your favourite pink blossomed tree. A large variety of blossoming flowers are earning your love and affection. People are walking with their pets. The scene is so fascinating. You are loving what you are experiencing. Well, does that describe you? Perhaps that is not the case for you, and you are not pleased with how you experience the greenspaces and water features around you. You might think that exercising near the canal is unsafe. Fear of crime is restricting you from taking your children to the community garden. The closest park is not convenient for you to use. You used to do gardening but not anymore due to many reasons. The facilities are too insufficient and run down to meet the needs of your family. Perhaps there are other things that disconnect you from the green spaces around you.

There is well-evidenced literature suggesting the benefits of green spaces and water features for our overall health, resilience, and well-being; improved self-esteem and self-efficacy; reduced psychological distress and strengthened cultural identity and belonging (Hatala et al. 2020). Furthermore, green and blue spaces improve the quality of urban settings, enhance local resilience and promote sustainable lifestyles. In a similar vein, World Health Organisation suggests that such spaces

‘…support and facilitate health and well-being by enabling stress alleviation and relaxation, physical activity, improved social interaction and community cohesiveness. Health benefits include improved levels of mental health, physical fitness and cognitive and immune function, as well as lower mortality rates in general’ (WHO, 2017: 6).

Considering such potential of urban green and blue spaces, many LAs and developers build their urban ecosystem policy and practices to provide benefits to resident’s livelihood and their quality of life. On the other hand, there is also evidence that these benefits are not experienced in the same manner by all. The question is then: how we can all benefit adequately and equally and just from green and water spaces? What actions can be taken by developers and local authorities, especially in the context of regeneration?

London Development Trust is now conducting a research project, called ‘BlueGreen Impact Project to support socially just long-term outcomes from investment in urban blue and green space, partnering with Middlesex University. The project will explore what impact urban nature – trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, flowerbeds, canals, reservoirs and such –have on the everyday life of residents in Woodberry Down and Acton Gardens, and how they are being used by residents and others accessing and using the neighbourhoods. Dr Meri Juntti from Middlesex University with our project manager Sevda Ozsezer-Kurnuc will develop indicators and guidance for understanding and forecasting the social impact of urban nature for the use of Local Authorities and Developers in regeneration planning.

The first phase of the project is completed! The project team has created a comprehensive literature review from 527 articles, using a highly prestigious social science database (Scopus). Of that, 99 were used to create a survey due to their relevance to the project aim.

We would like to invite representatives of Woodberry Down or Acton Gardens communities to take part in this survey. You can give an interview or fill the survey below (click the link, https://loom.ly/Ue5uVF4). You may be a resident, a member of a residents’ organisation, a developer, an owner or employee of an organisation based in or near Woodberry Down or Acton Gardens. You are all welcome to take part!

If you are happy to be involved, please respond to this questionnaire. Click the link! https://loom.ly/Ue5uVF4 This will take around 10 minutes and you will get a chance to win a £45 Amazon voucher. Please do not forget to click the submit button at the end.

If you want to do more for your community, you can take part in our focus group sessions or an individual interview. This will involve discussing topics such as the benefits and problems associated with urban nature in your neighbourhood and the preferences of different demographic groups in relation to urban nature. This would take around 45-60 mins and you will receive a £15 Amazon voucher.

Participation is entirely voluntary, and you can withdraw at any time without an explanation if you wish to do so. All information you contribute will be anonymised, and no names will be associated with any findings.

Your participation is important because inclusive green space that benefits all need to be informed by diverse views and experiences. Let your Voice be Heard!

If you are happy to give an interview or have any questions, please send us an email (sevda.ozsezer@mhdt.org.uk) or call us (020 8802 7580). We are more than happy to respond!

Thank you!

 

 

References

Hatala, A. R., Njeze, C., Morton, D., Pearl, T., & Bird-Naytowhow, K. (2020). Land and nature as sources of health and resilience among Indigenous youth in an urban Canadian context: A photovoice exploration. BMC public health, 20, 1-14.

WHO, T. (2017). Urban green spaces: a brief for action. World Health Organization.