Natural England develops Green Flag health check for parks

A health check for parks to probe the physical, mental and social benefits of green spaces is being developed by Natural England.

The organisation hopes that its working document on the plan could become supplementary guidance in the Green Flag awards scheme, leading parks managers to think more pointedly about the health aspects of their spaces.

Natural England senior specialist in health, equality and diversity Belinda Davis explained: "It is about looking at the green space from a different viewpoint — we have identified how green spaces may benefit local authorities, other green space owners, primary care trusts, communities and friends' groups."

The draft health check explores four different themes that those involved with green spaces could look at profitably — building a healthy natural environment for a healthy community, improving mental well-being, increasing opportunities for physical activity and developing social cohesion.

"It is not set in stone and we hope to develop the ideas more in the future," said Davis.

The health check sets out potential features to consider in parks to meet the four themes. These include varying the types of vegetation used in open spaces, to increase the benefits for climate change adaptation; creating sensory gardens and areas for community gardening; providing health walks and natural play spaces; and increasing the variety of events to reflect different cultures.

The Green Flag judges committee will be considering the document and providing feedback to Natural England.

"It is not meant to be used as criteria for Green Flag awards but to work as supplementary guidance," Davis explained.

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