A new report from UK charity Groundwork calls on planners and landscape managers to tackle barriers that prevent communities from connecting to nature in towns and cities. Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature highlights disparities in access to urban green and blue space. It argues for more support and training for health and care workers to offer nature-based activities for their clients.
The report, published May 2021, finds that despite 95% of adults placing value on accessing nature, the oldest people, disabled people, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and people from ethnic minorities all face barriers preventing them from accessing the outdoors. These barriers can include safety, social isolation, habit formation in childhood, and a lack of facilities such as toilets. The report also covers the impact of Covid-19. Whilst the pandemic has led to increases in visit to the outdoors, it has also highlighted and exacerbated inequalities in access.
Frequent use of parks and greenspace is estimated to save the NHS £111 million per year through a reduction in GP visits, meaning that tackling these issues is a core part of creating a healthier, happier population and more sustainable healthcare system.
The report concludes with three key recommendations:
- Reimagine urban nature to ensure it meets the needs and desires of communities today – putting social equity to the forefront in community consultation, landscape design and green infrastructure management.
- Rebalance power in the management of green and blue spaces and build better partnerships – organisations need to work more closely with the communities they exist to benefit.
- Integrate urban nature solutions fully into efforts to tackle health inequalities, climate change and biodiversity loss – including more support and training for frontline health and care professionals to embed activity in green and blue spaces into their services.
Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature was produced with a cross-sectional group of contributors via the National Outdoors for All Working Group, including Carey Newson, Green Space Programme Director at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.