Modern cities need open space for wellbeing

06/05/2021 | 3 mins

New research from The University of Western Australia has found that more public open and green space in post-pandemic cities is necessary to boost our mental and physical wellbeing.

An international survey, published in Sustainability, compared how citizens in Perth and Moscow valued their open and green public infrastructure and how their attitudes changed during lockdown periods resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In both cities, lockdowns limited access to green spaces which affected people’s mental and physical health. 

"Access to nature and public rights to use greenspaces will be crucial for enhancing general urban resilience to crisis,"

Dr Maria Ignatieva

All those surveyed in both cities highly valued the availability and access to green spaces despite the differences in climate, socioeconomics, history and land-use access. 

Respondents also preferred being able to access different urban green spaces, indicating the significance of a nearby local park during the pandemic and identified additional features for improving urban green spaces such as benches or shelters.

Dr Maria Ignatieva from UWA’s School of Design said the results showed a disparity in the quality, functionality and location of open green spaces across both cities.

Dr Ignatieva said greening should be a fundamental strategy of cities when coping with a crisis such as COVID-19. 

“Perth inhabitants were lucky and had more opportunities to go outside and visit green spaces and many people have private gardens that allow them to have direct access to and contact with nature on an everyday basis,” she said.

“Access to nature and public rights to use greenspaces will be crucial for enhancing general urban resilience to crisis.”

Respondents in both cities also showed a preference for remnants of native vegetation or natural bushland as a very desirable additional type of urban green spaces, suggesting a need for contact with native areas.

Dr Ignatieva said planners also needed to consider new progressive ecological elements such as street plantings, green walls and garden beds for more functional urban design.

“The results indicate a growing public awareness for green and liveable cities and the desire to have a more diverse urban green infrastructure which addresses current societal needs,” Ms Ignatieva said.

New results of a national online survey conducted by planning experts, Plan My Australia, further revealed how urban planning could respond to the challenges associated with people’s new living and social conditions created by the pandemic.

The results, published in Planning Practice and Research, revealed that many experts identified better planning for future pandemics in Australia required some reconsideration of city size, urban density, self-sufficiency, public transport use, open space provision and housing design. 

Dr Julian Bolleter from UWA’s School of Design said the results suggested a greater amount of public open space to allow people to take part in recreational activities while socially distancing during pandemics was needed when planning urban area. 

“Modern cities need not only to allocate more public open spaces and green spaces but also to provide better access to them,” Dr Bolleter said.

Media references

Jess Reid, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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