Parks for Health strategy launched by Camden and Islington

A Sunday morning Parkrun event at Highbury Fields

A Sunday morning Parkrun event at Highbury Fields - Credit: André Langlois

A plan has been announced to make parks and green spaces focal points for improving wellbeing and reducing health inequalities.

In 2019, Islington and Camden councils were awarded an initial £667,000 grant as part of the Future Parks Accelerator initiative to reimagine how outdoor spaces could become part of the health system.

The councils have worked with 36 park user groups, more than 50 community organisations, and nine GP practices to develop the Parks for Health strategy.

Barriers to use such as childhood habits, social isolation, feeling unsafe, and experience of harassment have been identified.

The strategy aims to remove these barriers by 2030, with steps already taken towards green social prescribing, dementia health walks, and intergenerational events.

It involves investing in parks, putting wellbeing at the centre of plans, encouraging biodiversity, working with community groups and public bodies, and building on relationships with health and social care partners.

Islington health and social care lead Cllr Nurullah Turan and environment lead Cllr Rowena Champion said in a statement: “We’re determined to create a more equal Islington, and maximising the potential of Islington’s parks and green spaces so that they can support everyone – regardless of their background – to improve their mental and physical wellbeing is at the heart of this.  

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“Islington is Britain’s most densely-populated local authority, and just 13% of the borough’s land is green space, which is why it’s so important that we do the very best with what we have, to deliver better health outcomes for all.

“The Parks for Health project has enabled us to really focus on how we can use our parks and green spaces to their full potential to support health and wellbeing. The strategy sets out the learning that both ourselves and Camden have done through the project, as well as detailing our pioneering, cross-borough approach to reimagining parks and green spaces to harness their full potential.”

Camden health and social Care lead Cllr Anna Wright and sustainability lead Cllr Adam Harrison said in a statement: “The global pandemic has starkly reminded us of the importance of all public open spaces, particularly in Camden where two in five of our residents’ homes do not have access to private outdoor space - the third highest in the country.

“Our parks therefore act as shared gardens for those who do not have one and provide a space both to relax, be sociable and keep active, indeed research has shown that regular use, of at least once a week, of a green space is associated with a 43% lower risk of poor general health.

“This successful collaboration between Camden and Islington councils has demonstrated how we can enrich both our boroughs for the benefit of all residents by pooling our knowledge and resources and is a key example of how We Make Camden together.”

The Parks for Health strategy can be found at www.camden.gov.uk/parks-in-camden#spdg and www.islington.gov.uk/parksforhealth