GreenSpace is Good For You

The case for the intrinsic value vested in public parks and sports facilities would seem to be intuitively compelling, in fact a ‘no-brainer’. While this may be so, for a project of this size we believe a more reasoned case is called for, and a formal cost/benefit argument will be an essential part of the decision-making process. For the present, we are working on the assumption that the case is taken as read, that present purposes do not require us to present an open-and-shut case. However, some interesting material already to hand on the health, fitness and cognitive benefits delivered by publicly accessible greenspaces is included below. We will continue to add to this research and will publish a list of references on our Bookshelf.


Cognitive and learning benefits

Extract: Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost. Such a therapy has been known to philosophers, writers, and laypeople alike: interacting with nature. Many have suspected that nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being, and these effects have recently been documented.

Research Report:  The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature


Area attractiveness, Community involvement and empowerment, Civic pride

Extract: Good quality Urban Green/Blue Spaces (UGBS) improves quality of city life via the enhancement of their attractiveness to residents, employees, tourists, investors and firms. From a social perspective, UGBS has an impact on a wide range of issues ranging from community involvement and empowerment, including matters of safety, inclusion, equality, civic pride, health, education and recreation. Well managed and maintained UGBS can contribute to social inclusion and social justice and provide cultural links and opportunities for community events and outdoor activities.

Int J Environ Res Public Health Article: Modern Compact Cities: How Much Greenery Do We Need?


Reduced health risks

Strong evidence shows that when people have access to parks, they exercise more. Regular
physical activity has been shown to increase health and reduce the risk of a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes. Physical activity also
relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, improves mood, and enhances psychological
well-being. Beyond the benefits of exercise, a growing body of research shows that contact
with the natural world improves physical and psychological health.

The Benefit of Parks Publication.


Improved mental health and well-being

Extract: Unipolar depressive disorders are now the leading cause of disability in middle to high income countries, making mental health and wellbeing a critical modern public health issue. This trend may be related to increased urbanisation, with 77.7% of people in the world’s more developed regions now residing in urban areas, and to reduced access to “natural” spaces which aid stress reduction. Support for this possibility comes from epidemiological studies which find that individuals living in the greenest urban areas tend to have better mental health than those in the least green areas. Similar patterns are found for a range of physical health outcomes, including mortality. Experimental findings and field observations on the effects of green space exposure on psychological health are also consistent with this epidemiological evidence.

Longitudinal Effects on Mental Health of Moving to Greener and Less Green Urban Areas Article


Generation-spanning physical and mental benefits

Extract: Exposure to nature in parks, gardens, and natural areas can improve psychological and social health. Surgical patients recover faster with windows that look out on trees. Horticultural therapy has evolved as a form of mental health treatment based on the therapeutic effects of gardening. Children who suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) can concentrate on schoolwork better after taking part in activities in green settings. Residents in housing projects with views of trees or grass experience reduced mental fatigue and report that they are better able to cope with life’s problems. Parks provide children with opportunities for play, and play is critical in the development of muscle strength and coordination, language, and cognitive abilities. Parks also build healthy communities by creating stable neighborhoods and strengthening community development. Research shows that residents of neighborhoods with greenery in common spaces enjoy stronger social ties. Neighborhoods with community gardens are more stable, losing fewer residents over time. Parks increase “social capital.” That is, when people work together in a community garden or to create a park from a vacant lot, they get to know one another, trust one another, and look out for one another. The accomplishment of creating a new park helps
people to believe that they can effect change.

The Health Benefits of Parks Publication


The next two articles from Toronto contain some good references:

Extract: We all like to spend time in parks, but are they just the perk of a great neighbourhood?Or is it crucial for people to be able to interact with nature in spaces like parks? Many of your our childhood memories happened in parks. To some extent, we’re probably aware that the parks in the neighbourhood where you grew up had an impact on who you are today.

It turns out parks are a crucial part of any community. They have a significant impact on the development of children and the happiness of everyone in the neighbourhood. Here’s why parks are important to our neighbourhoods—and why Toronto needs to actively improve its own park network.

8 Reasons Why Parks Are Important Article

Extract: Scientific research has shown that urban residents have a higher percentage of mental illness than their rural counterparts, but it’s not just about living in the city. Your neighbourhood can influence your mental health too. In fact, living in an area with several parks is proven to have long term mental health benefits. Not convinced? Keep reading to find out exactly how parks benefit mental health.

How Parks Affect Mental Health, Backed By Science Article


Two extracts on the economic benefits of Sport:

The report of the UEFA GROW SROI (Social Return on Investment) program shows, for instances a value generated by soccer activities in Scotland of €1.42 bn. The direct economic impact amounts to more than €227m, over €340m in social benefits and a preventative health spend of almost €794m from the grassroots game. Access the report here.

Closer to home, Na Fianna GAA club in Glasnevin analysed Social Value Contribution for a twelve-month period in 2017/18 and established the value of their activities to the Community as approaching €50 m. See their reports here.


The UK Government report ‘Nature Nearby’ may be of interest to MCC executives and planners, as well as to the interested public and public representatives:

Natural England believes that everyone should have access to good quality natural greenspace near to where they live, ie. ‘Nature Nearby’. This provides a broad range of benefits to people and the quality of their lives, covering all the ecosystem services we depend on.
This guidance is aimed at parks and greenspace practitioners and their partners, particularly decision makers, planners and managers of green space. It describes the amount, quality and visitor services of accessible natural green spaces that we believe everyone is entitled to, and provides advice on how they can be delivered.

 ‘Nature Nearby’ – Accessible Natural Greenspace Guidance Report. 

Fine, but how much land is recommended?

UK Government’s Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards (ANGSt) recommends that everyone, wherever they live, should have an accessible natural greenspace:
 of at least 2 hectares in size, no more than 300 metres (5 minutes walk) from home;
 at least one accessible 20 hectare site within two kilometres of home;
 one accessible 100 hectare site within five kilometres of home; and
 one accessible 500 hectare site within ten kilometres of home; plus
 a minimum of one hectare of statutory Local Nature Reserves per thousand population

Editors comment: These standards seem very generous – they may need to be confirmed by further research.