When it comes to urban planning, landscaped spaces are crucial in even the most urban of areas. With the current industry focus on environmentally-responsible planning and overall carbon footprint reduction, the increase of public green spaces has been exponential.
Now, a study by the Grattan Institute suggests the development of public garden spaces can actually improve the health and well-being of those in the area in more ways than would perhaps be suspected.
The latest report, written by Jane Frances-Kelly and labeled ‘Social Cities’, outlines correlation between areas that feature a high proportion of green spaces and a lack of isolation in community members. While this sense of loneliness is often trivialised, the report indicates that it can in fact ‘have serious health consequences, with a similar impact to high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity or smoking’ while also being cited as a factor in the development of mental health issues.
Frances-Kelly explains that this is an issue that is increasing in Australia, and warns that it may get worse in the future.
“Data shows that people’s friendships and neighbourhood connections have diminished over the past two decades,” says Frances-Kelly. “Our changing population means these trends could get worse.”
There is, however a solution to this social epidemic. The report suggests that through the development and nurturing of green spaces, re-connection, communication and community oriented living is encouraged, with the health issues associated with loneliness dropping in areas that foster these characteristics.
There is always a need for more efficient public transport infrastructure and greater urban connectivity, but the development of green spaces in urban areas is a key element to the success of a community as it offers recreation and communication spaces rather than overall lifestyle efficiency.
While the findings are valuable, Frances-Kelly said there is more that goes into a positive public green space than simply throwing in a patch of grass. The study notes that ‘the quality of open space is just as important as the quantity.’
“A small park that is well maintained and watered, with established trees to provide shade, vibrant flower gardens for visual pleasure, quality seating and creative playgrounds, will be used far more actively than a park that is far larger but less inviting”, Frances-Kelly says.
The report also indicates that Australia shows a strong urban planning foundation that focuses on the inclusion of public landscape garden areas. However, with population size increasing, it will be important for state and local governments in addition to work with this industry to cater to the growing needs of the country.
“Australian cities are to absorb larger populations and improve quality of life for all residents, they need to do a better job of meeting our psychological as well as our material needs,” says Frances-Kelly.
This is clearly an issue that can be tackled. For the good of the people, urban planners undertaking current precinct developments Australia-wide should not ignore this growing issue.