Summary of the evidence base for our proposals
Access to green space is associated with:
- Improved mental health and cognitive function
- Reduced cardiovascular mortality
- Reduced prevalence of type 2 diabetes
- Improved pregnancy outcomes
- Increased life satisfaction
- Reduced mortality
- Self-reported health
- Supporting social networks and community cohesion/ resilience
- Healthy internal biome (gut health, immune system, reduced asthma).
- Spending at least 120 minutes per week associated with higher levels of wellbeing
- important, not just quantity
- Social participation
- How green space is designed (co-production)
- Idea of a ‘natural health service’
- House price is often linked to access to good quality green spaces
- Links to job creation
- However there is a real inequality to access to green spaces which needs to be addressed – those in more deprived areas are less likely to be close to good quality green space
A new relationship with Nature
- It’s not just about to access to nature and green space but also how connected you feel to it that contributes to bring in a Biophilic City
- Covid19 has highlighted the way we use nature and green space has to be different.
- Prof Miles Richardson (University of Derby) argues for us not only spend time physically in green space, but importantly, be connected to it. He suggests we can do this in 5 different ways:
- Senses: Noticing and actively engaging with nature through the senses
- Emotion: Engaging emotionally with nature. Simply noticing the good things in nature, experiencing the joy and calm they can bring.
- Beauty: Finding beauty in the natural world. Simply taking time to appreciate beauty in nature and engaging with it through art, music or in words.
- Meaning: Exploring and expressing how nature brings meaning to life.
- Compassion: Caring for nature. Simply thinking about what we can do for nature and taking actions that are good for nature, such as creating homes for wildlife, supporting conservation charities and rethinking our shopping habits.
Our Jobs and Skills Pilot Site
Ward End Park
What do we know about Ward End Park?
- Ward End Park is one of our larger parks at over 210,000 square feet (over 50 acres). It is a Green Flag park with good cycle paths, ample signage, excellent play facilities, a lake and large number of trees. It is a well used park, with an active Friends of Park group and the onsite Dolphin Centre provides a range of activities (including job support), refreshments and facilities for the local community. The southern part of the park however is a little secluded and is also prone to fly tipping and vandalism.
- We know that the community living in Ward End is one of the youngest and most diverse in our City. The employment rate in Ward End is much lower than the Birmingham average at 48%, and nearly 40% have no qualifications. The Active Wellbeing Society is running a number of outdoor activities (cycling, tennis and running, which is engaging younger people, both large numbers of men and women, and the vast majority are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. Health issues are also a concern in this particular ward with obesity, heart and respiratory conditions all being worse than the England average. Ward End Park is used by local residents to take part in organised activities by the Active Wellbeing Society including running and tennis.
- Ward End has a number of employment opportunities, especially with the upcoming developments for the High Speed 2 Rail (HS2). Heartlands Hospital is only 1.5 miles away and is one of the largest employers in the Ward. Ward End is also home to Alum Rock Shopping with a large number of shops. There are 13 schools and nurseries around Ward End Park which could really benefit from all the park offers.
- There is therefore a real potential to work with Ward End residents and people who work here to use parks to help improve their skills and employment prospects, as well as their health and wellbeing.
Our Health and Wellbeing Pilot Site
What do we know about Witton Lakes
- Health and wellbeing is a strong theme running through all our pilots and will be key to bringing all our FPA pilots together as we try to transform our Parks and green spaces. We know from research that green spaces offer many physical and mental health benefits from reducing blood pressure to reducing stress hormones and so reducing stress and anxiety. There also many indirect health benefits from green spaces as they reduce the impact of air traffic pollution, noise and the heat-island effect.
- Social Prescribing is becoming more mainstream as a source of help for patients – it offers non-medical help to those suffering with poor health and wellbeing, such as volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports. Since it has become part of the new GP Contract in 2019/2020, there is a great opportunity to make green spaces a key part of social prescribing. There are currently 27 Primary Care Networks in Birmingham & Solihull, and each one of these has an allocated Social Prescriber or Link Worker. By working with GPs and Social Prescribers, we aim to increase awareness around the impact of greenspaces on health and therefore increase community access to green space activities.
- The focus of our proposals will take place at the Witton Lakes site in Stockland Green. Stockland Green has a population of over 23,000, and overall follows the make-up of Birmingham in terms of age groups – a relatively young ward in its breakdown by age. Over 84% of the households in Stockland Green are made up of the most deprived households according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation. It also falls into the top 10% most deprived wards nationally and child poverty levels are higher than both national and Birmingham average. It also ranks worse than both Birmingham and national average in health indicators with emergency admissions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease being the worst (rate nearly double the England average).
- The Lakes are the core and prominent features of the park, making it one of the most appealing out of our Pilot sites. Work in and around the Lakes means we have more biodiversity, habitats and water quality that are typical characteristics of a Nature Reserve.
- The park has a great network for active transport connecting the City from North to South, via cycle routes and walking paths that are all well maintained.
- There is a very active ‘Friends of Witton Lakes’ group that looks after most of the activities that take place here, from a community orchard through to litter picking. Funding has also been secured and planning is in place for a new ‘Eco Hub’ in the park that will aim to increase levels of community engagement with the park. Apart from the Friends group, little other organised activity takes place in the park creating an opportunity to engage with the community in other ways. Residents in Stockland Green tend to travel to other parks to take part in organized activities by The Active Wellbeing Society – these include Handsworth Park, Perry Hall Park and Brookvale Park.
Children’s Pilot site
Dawberry Fields Park
What do we know about Dawberry Fields?
- Dawberry Fields is a relatively new park, covering around 78,000 square feet (or nearly 20 acres). It has a school and nursery overlooking it and is also very close to a local community centre, the Brandwood. The road leading up to the park is often congested at school times despite there being really good accessible paths, and a cycle route. The play area and car park is well used by local parents and teachers, as is the play area. However, there is not much organised social activity taking place in this park – there is no active volunteering, unlike in other parks in the same ward, and just across the border in Cotteridge. There is no active Friends of Park group for this park either. Some of it’s features such as the brook and pond are not easily accessible, but sites for good ecological diversity. The neighbouring allotments are also a big asset for this site, and also has slow worms. They are a protected species and so this adds even more value to the site. Signage is also an issue for this park, with it being out of date and vandalised.
- We also know that residents living around Dawberry Fields struggle with things such as living in deprivation. Around 13% (or over 2000) residents are categorised as ‘family basics’ meaning they have a tight budget to keep to in order to make ends meet. The largest age group in this ward is 25-44 yrs which is important for this pilot given this is the age that people are generally having children/ growing their families.
- When looking at the kinds of ‘park related’ activities that residents of this ward take part in, Kings Heath Park is popular, but people also travel to Billesley and Kings Norton to attend these. The median age of attendees for most of these activities is above 60 years.
What do we know about Housing in the City?
- Birmingham’s parks and green spaces, are a place for everyone. A place to unwind, learn, get active and spend time with your local community.
- We know that housing has huge benefits for wellbeing if it is well designed in terms of being affordable, being warm and insulated and being safe. Given that being in green spaces is good for health and wellbeing, making sure that green space is well designed and part of people’s home is another way to make a positive difference to our residents’ lives.
- Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), Birmingham City Council’s housebuilding arm, was initially created when the council was challenged with an increased demand for social housing. Since then, the Trust has taken the opportunity to create high quality houses which specifically meet the needs of residents in Birmingham and has done so to higher design and manufacturing standards that has been typically found elsewhere on the housing market. (BCC 2019). BMHT works with private sector developers and since it’s launch, has built over 3,000 homes for sale and rent, making it the largest housebuilder in the region. (BCC 2019).
- The State of Parks Report 2016
- Government Response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report: The Future of Public Parks 2017
- The Future of Birminghams Parks and Open Spaces 2006
- Bowler D, Buying-Ali L, Knight T, & Pullin A, (2010) The importance of nature for health: is there a specific benefit of contact with green space?, CEE review 08-003 (SR40)
- Bragg, R., Atkins, G., 2016, A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number204
- Bragg, R. and Leck, C. Good practice in social prescribing for mental health: the role of nature-based interventions. Natural England Commissione Reports, Number 228. York
- Defra, Health and the natural environment: A review of evidence, policy, practice and opportunities for the future, 2018
- Dobson, J., Harris, C., Eadson, W., and Gore, T. (2019) Space to Thrive: a rapid evidence review of the benefits of parks and green spaces for people and communities. The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fun, London
- Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation, Greenspace and Health: Strategic Framework for Edinburgh & Lothians, 2019, https://www.greenspacescotland.org.uk/nhs-lothian-green-health
- Greenspace Scotland https://www.greenspacescotland.org.uk/
- i-Tree, Valuing London’s Urban Forest, 2015
- Liveable Cities- Little Book of Ecosystem Services in Cities; https://liveablecities.org.uk/sites/default/files/outcome_downloads/littlebookofecosystemservicesinthecity.pdf
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Physical activity and the environment update: Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness evidence review 3: Park, neighbourhood and multicomponent interventions, 2017
- Natural Health Service – Merseyside and North Cheshire https://naturalhealthservice.org.uk/wordpress/
- NHS Scotland, Good Places, Better Health https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Healthy-Living/Good-Places-Better-Health
- Ostle N, Levy P, Evans C, Smith D, (2009), UK land use and soil carbon sequestration, Land Use Policy, 26, pp. 274-283
- Staatsen, B., van der Vliet, N., Kruize, H., et al (2017) INHERIT: Exploring triple-win solutions for living, moving and consuming that encourage behavioural change, protect the environment, promote health and health equity, EuroHealthNet, Brussels
- What works wellbeing https://whatworkswellbeing.org/
- White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
- WHO Regional Office for Europe (2016), Urban green spaces and health: a review of evidence, http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-and-health-review-evidence.pdf?ua=1
- WHO Regional Office for Europe (2017), Urban green spaces: a brief for action http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/publications/2017/urban-green-spaces-a-brief-for-action-2017
Frequently asked questions
Q What is Social Prescribing?
Q What is a Biophilic City?
Please let us know if you would like more information or if you have any questions please contact Debbie Needle the project Community Facilitator by email: [email protected]