GLA election an opportunity to press case for parks and open spaces

The London Parks and Green Spaces Forum, in conjunction with the London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network, is calling on Friends groups and the wider public to use the upcoming London elections to speak out for London’s parks and green spaces.

Elections for Mayor of London and London Assembly Members will be held on May 5th. In a statement, they say ‘We urge you to take this opportunity to contact (by letter or e-mail) your local candidates and parties standing for election, to lobby for issues that are important to you in relation to London’s parks and green spaces.

Please remind them that parks and green spaces are an essential resource for all our communities, providing numerous benefits and services: health, sports, leisure, education, play, social cohesion, local economy and biodiversity, to name just a few. They are used by virtually everyone and as such they should receive the resources they need to ensure they can fulfil their vital functions. Please ask candidates to support the recommendations of the London Green Infrastructure Task Force report (see: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/environment-publications/green-infrastructure-task-force-report ), in particular to appoint a Green Infrastructure Commissioner.

The heavily mown 'amenity grassland' of the former Pitch and Putt course by Bursted Wood, Barnehurst, quite unnecessarily leaves far too little for our declining Bees to feed on

Bursted Woods Open Space, Barnehurst

All the key Mayoral candidates have expressed support for London being declared a National Park City. Now they and their parties must commit to real action to protect greenspace.

In spite of the essential role London’s parks and green spaces play we are entering a local and national greenspace crisis, due to continued cuts to parks budgets, mainly a result of central government cuts to Local Authorities’ overall budgets. London Councils warned last year that cuts to local government funding mean money for parks simply isn’t there [1] Park lovers need to speak out now.[2] Past experience of revenue cuts has shown that if local spaces are poorly resourced they are very likely to become problem spaces with negative effects on our communities.

Furthermore, with London’s population rising, we need more green space. Instead, on top of cuts there is a growing pressure on greenspace in every Borough, which is leading more and more to inappropriate urban development, commercialism and even sell-offs of green space.

Your local parks/green spaces have their own specific issues and needs which ought to be heard and addressed.  With nearly 600 local Friends Groups in London, this is a growing and powerful grassroots force – we encourage London’s residents to publicly raise the profile of local parks and the benefits that they afford local communities.  Your group can influence future Assembly Members and political parties who will make funding and other decisions that will impact on your local park. Please consider writing to all kinds of networks and your local newspaper too. This is your opportunity to make our local parks a priority.

Thank you for your support.

Yours sincerely, Tony Leach, CE, London Parks & Green Spaces Forum. c/o 18 City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA

Dave Morris, Chair, London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network

_________________________________

Facts & figures

Research in 2010 showed: 87% of people have used their park or green space in the past year, more than any other public service, and 95% of people thought it was very or fairly important to have green spaces near to where they live. If people are satisfied with their local park they tend to be satisfied with their council.[3]

  • Obesity and inactivity are impairing & shortening the lives of millions of people in Britain. Almost 25% of British adults are clinically obese with a further 40%[4] overweight and in danger of becoming obese. 18.9% of 10-11 year olds are obese[5] – if not tackled this will be a drain on the NHS for years to come.
  • Obese and overweight patients cost the NHS £4.2bn per year with a further £11.6bn lost to the economy[6] through lost work days etc. A major cause of obesity, and other health problems, is inactivity – 23% of adults are classified as inactive, reducing this to 22% would save the NHS an estimated £1.44bn[7]. A brisk walk every day, in a local park, can reduce the risk of heart attacks by 50%, strokes by 50%, diabetes by 50%, fracture of the femur by 30%, colon cancer by 30%, breast cancer by 30% and Alzheimer’s by 25%[8].
  • Almost 25% of Britons are classified as obese – compared with a European average of 16.7%.[9]
  • Type 2 diabetes accounted for less than 3% of all diabetes cases in adolescents in 1990, but that share had risen to 45% in 2005[10].
  • Physical inactivity affects 60–70% of the adult population and increases the risk of obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension and overall bad health[11].
  • MIND recommends that green exercise be seen as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress[12]. The treatment of mental illness in England requires annual NHS expenditure of £3.8 billion[13].
  • Simply being outside in a green space can promote mental well-being, relieve stress, overcome isolation, improve social cohesion and alleviate physical problems[14].
  • Unlike antidepressant drugs that cost £750 million a year, green exercise is free and does not carry the potential for negative side effects[15].
  • More information:

<http://www.lpgsf.org.uk>www.lpgsf.org.uk

Community pages: <http://www.lpgsf.org.uk/community> www.lpgsf.org.uk/community

Refs

[1]

http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/our-key-themes/environment/local-environmental-quality/future-london-parks

[2] The situation is similar nationally. In response there is a national Save Our Parks petition which we urge all to support and promote:

http://chn.ge/TXdqhj

not ask election candidates to sign it?

[3]  CABE Space 2010, Urban Green Nation: Building the Evidence.

[4]  Health and Social Care Information Centre,

as reported in The Independent –

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/obesity-will-take-eight-years-off-your-life-study-says-9904200.html

[5]  Government Office for Science. (2007).

Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project Report. 2nd Edition

[6]  Lifestyle statistics team, Health and Social Care Information Centre (2013) National Child Measurement Programme: England, 2012/13 school year. London: HSCIC

[7]  The Forestry Commission. (2005). Economic Benefits of Accessible Green Spaces for Physical and Mental Health

[8]  Bird, W. (2002). Green Space and our Health; paper to London Greenspace conference

[9]  OECD/European Union (2014), Overweight and obesity among adults, in Health at a Glance: Europe 2014, OECD Publishing.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance_eur-2014-23-en

[10]  O. Pinhas-Hamiel and P. Zeitler, The global spread of type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents, Journal of Pediatrics, v. 146, 2005.

[11]  Department of Health (2010) 2009 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer

[12]  MIND. 2007. Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health.

[13]  The Department of Health. 2004. At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its’ relationship to health. A report from the Chief Medical Officer

[14]  CABE. (2009). Future Health: Sustainable places for health and well-being

[15]   Mind. (2007). Get outdoors, get active: Openmind Issue 145, May/June 2007

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