The feelgood factor

Discover the health benefits of green spaces

As our communities continue to grow and expand, ensuring we can live as close

as possible to nature is a top priority for many of us.

Aside from the proven social and mental and physical health benefits, incorporating green spaces into urban planning encourages biodiversity – and this is vitally important to our everyday lives and the life of our planet.

It’s no surprise then that an abundance of green spaces is often cited as a major factor in a home buyer’s choice of where to live.

So what is biodiversity? Basically, it’s a boost to an ecosystem’s productivity through allowing a wide variety of species – flora, fauna, animals and insects – to thrive alongside one another.

Crucially, biodiversity is also a key tool in helping mitigate the worst effects of climate change by ensuring ecosystems become more resilient.

It also encourages the breakdown of pollution in urban areas, while careful maintenance protects wildlife food and water systems.

Planning for the future

The ongoing progress of the Environment Bill in the UK Parliament reflects the fact the importance of biodiversity is finally being recognised. This Bill proposes strict new requirements for developers where urban housing developments must incorporate spaces that encourage biodiversity.

Many cities in Europe have already introduced the concept of a ‘Green Space Factor’ as a planning tool to ensure a high level of biodiversity in housing.

A great example of the benefits of biodiversity such planning is the abundance of the urban bee. In many cities around the world, bees have been introduced into newbuild environments to promote pollination, which is vital in food production and agriculture.

As humans, we really do depend on other creatures – even tiny examples such as our bee – to give vital balance to the world we live in.

This is why the need for new housing cannot be separated from the need to protect and maintain biodiversity, upon which our everyday lives depend.

By encouraging biodiversity in new housing developments Greenbelt is ensuring we maintain the balance of the natural world, help mitigate the effects of climate change and ultimately improve our own health.

There are direct health benefits of living next to green spaces are immense and varied and encompass all areas of our wellbeing. But don’t just take our word for it. According to WHO’s report on ‘Urban Green Space Interventions and Health’ (2017), living near green spaces is a major factor in improving public health.

As well as being an incentive to take up more regular outdoors, exercise such as running or walking, there are hidden physical benefits of living near green spaces. This includes the reduction of exposure to air and noise pollution.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s also incredibly important to continue to prioritise our mental health.

A study conducted by the University of Arhaus found children who live near green spaces and spend a couple of hours a week in these areas are less likely to struggle with their mental health as they grow up – living next to green spaces, then, functions as an early intervention tool for mental health.

A walk through a green space not only produces feelgood endorphins but also gives us access to a refuge of calm – particularly important in busier urban areas – where we can escape when the world is at times stressful and confusing.

Being close to nature is proven to naturally reduce stress and anxiety, an important tool for our emotional wellbeing.

You can find out more about the work Greenbelt does in promoting biodiversity in our dedicated News section