By improving provision of, and access to, green space, play space, community food-growing and leisure facilities, the population can be encouraged to spend more time being physically active as part of their daily lives.

This has multiple benefits:

  • Improves physical wellbeing: adults who achieve at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise for at least 5 days a week can help reduce the risk of contracting coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, and overweight and obesity, or help to manage them where they exist already (Department of Health, 2011).
  • Improves mental wellbeing: factors such as crowding, graffiti, abandoned buildings, vandalism, street litter, lack of places to stop and chat and a lack of recreation facilities and green spaces all predict distress and depression. Creation of a high quality and well managed environment, including green space, can enable improved mental health and wellbeing, social capital and community engagement (National MWIA Collaborative (England), 2011; Faculty of Public Health, 2010).
  • Contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation: strategically placed green infrastructure can reduce the impacts of climate change by providing natural flood defences as well as vital cooling during heat waves (Natural England, 2009).
  • Creates a better place: the presence of green and community space can promote inward investment in the area and make it a more desirable place to live and work; this includes the provision of outside space, food and leisure facilities (Defra, 2013).

“Access to high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and well-being of communities.”

NPPF, 2012

By identifying and quantifying the benefits of green and community space, different partners can be encouraged to invest in green infrastructure provision. Ensuring that green infrastructure, open space and recreational facilities are included in development plans early on is a key way to enable the promotion of active communities.

“Overall, Kent’s population has a physical activity level of 10%, which is lower than the average levels for the rest of England.”

Kent JSNA, 2012
  • NICE public health guidance on the promotion and creation of physical environments – the guidance is for NHS and other professionals who have a direct or indirect role in the built or natural environment. For evidence of impact see in particular Appendix C.
  • NICE evidence update on physical activity and the environment – this Evidence Update gives a preliminary assessment of changes in the evidence base of physical activity and the environment.
  • Evidence of long-term effects of green space on mental health – the study presents evidence that people who move to greener areas enjoy improved mental health three years after leaving their previous neighbourhood.
  • The Value of Parks and Greenspace – an assessment and evidence of the environmental, social, and economic benefits of Liverpool’s green spaces.

Liverpool City Green Infrastructure Strategy – The Mersey Forest was commissioned by Liverpool City Council Planning Business Unit and Liverpool Primary Care Trust to produce a Green Infrastructure Strategy for the City of Liverpool. The Liverpool Green Infrastructure Strategy consists of four main elements: a promotional leaflet, an executive summary, an action plan and a technical document.

Arundel Square – The London Borough of Islington has used a section 106 planning agreement as part of a new development of flats called Arundel Square to regenerate an adjacent rundown park, get agreement from the developer to make a financial contribution annually to its upkeep, and provide a car sharing scheme in association with a car club to limit the number of car parking spaces attached to the development.

Birmingham City Council: climate change and vulnerable communities – the council have pioneered a local approach to climate change vulnerability mapping based on local climate data and information on health inequalities and likely vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.