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Is bigger better? The contribution of small green spaces to green space planning

Authors: Meredith Whitten*, London School of Economics & Political Science
Topics: Urban Geography, Landscape, Planning Geography
Keywords: urban green space, sustainability, green infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

By serving as an escape from chaotic, crowded city life, urban green spaces reduce stress, promote a sense of tranquillity, lead to better mental and physical health, offer recreational opportunities, and improve wellbeing. Small green spaces are vital to connecting urban dwellers with nature and play a large role in contributing to health and wellbeing. For example, the increasing practice of prescribing outdoor activity or time in nature as medical treatment highlights the need for local green spaces. Yet, despite evidence supporting the role of smaller and more informal green spaces in health and wellbeing, local authorities focus on their larger, flagship spaces, which are more likely to receive funding, easier to promote and attract more users. Indeed, many wards in Inner London are deficient in the number of households living within 400 metres of a small, local green space of 2 hectares. With the most common reason why urban residents visit an informal green space instead of a more formal, traditional space being proximity to their home, the dearth of small spaces can have an impact on nature-based solutions for health and wellbeing. Drawing from evidence from Inner London, this research examines the contradiction between a focus on large, flagship spaces and the benefits of an interconnected system of green space of multiple sizes. Ultimately, this research challenges an approach to green space planning that neglects the value small, informal green spaces provide for the health and wellbeing of urban dwellers.

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