Loss of green spaces threat to one in seven people in Yorkshire

THEY ARE a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle, a safe haven for wildlife and for children to play, yet one in seven people in Yorkshire say their local green space is, or has been, under threat of being lost forever.

Mackenzine Pugh, aged 10, rides his bikes under a cover of golden autumn leaves in Armley Park, Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty (JH1010/100a)

The value people in the region attach to their local parks and green spaces, and the merits of protecting them, are measured in a survey carried out by the charity Fields in Trust.

Results suggest the strength of feeling is profound and that passions run high when the future of such sites are threatened - feelings which have prompted the charity to encourage more communities to take steps to protect green spaces from development.

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Nearly all of those who answered its survey in Yorkshire - 95 per cent - agreed that parks and play areas should be protected from development, and 86 per cent felt strongly enough to say they would campaign against the loss of a park.

A recent example of a community rallying in such a way was in Sheffield - which, with an estimated two million trees, the city council claims is England’s greenest city. Campaigners tried but ultimately failed to achieve village green status for Smithy Wood, an ancient woodland which is threatened by plans to build a service station on it.

Dr Ross Cameron, senior lecturer in Landscape Management at the University of Sheffield, said the value of green spaces in general must not be forgotten by urban planners.

“There is pressure for new housing and we have to strike a balance with providing a landscape and facilities that improve our quality of life,” Dr Cameron said. “We have to think about how we can look after these plots around our dwellings as a community, and seeing these spaces as resources for creativity and relaxation.”

He said green spaces and parks were scientifically proven to relax weary minds, and that not only are they stress-busting environments but they provide physical liberation away from the cramped confines of workplaces, cars and public transport.

The Fields in Trust study found that almost half of people (49 per cent) in Yorkshire say using their local park helps them to feel healthier, whilst previous research published by the University of Exeter’s Medical School found that, on average, people who moved to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least three years.

Other findings from the Fields in Trust survey show that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of people in the region believe that the loss of parks would be detrimental to children’s development and another 51 per cent said they themselves would be less active if their local green space was lost.

Fourteen per cent said they used their local park at least twice a week. The main reasons being to take a walk, to relax and exercise the dog.

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, said: “We live in a fast-paced world and access to green space provides us all with a chance to take time-out and spend quality time being active with friends and family.

“Whilst we already protect a huge number of spaces across the country, more can be done. People often assume that their local park will always be there but this isn’t necessarily the case.

“The first step in getting a park protected is often for local people to actively campaign for it. Today we are encouraging people to take the first step by visiting our website to find out if their favourite local park is safe.”