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

Authors: Meredith Whitten*, London School of Economics & Political Science
Topics: Landscape, Urban Geography, Planning Geography
Keywords: urban green space, parks, wellbeing, green infrastructure, London
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Green spaces in an urban environment reduce stress, promote a sense of tranquillity, lead to better mental and physical health, offer recreational opportunities, and increase social interactions. Small green spaces near where city residents live are vital to connecting urban dwellers with neighbours and nature and play a large role in contributing to physical health and mental wellbeing. For example, the increasing practice of prescribing outdoor activity, time spent in natural area or meeting with others in parks and gardens as medical treatment highlights the need for local green spaces. Further, the importance of providing high-quality green spaces near where people live has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, despite evidence supporting the role of smaller and more informal green spaces in health and wellbeing, local authorities often focus on their larger, flagship spaces, which are more likely to receive funding, easier to promote and attract more users. 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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