Exploring the benefits of Urban Greening

Urban Greening brings a whole host of benefits: to our cites, to the lives of those who live in them and to the environment as a whole. Here we explore some of them in our latest insight.

Around 7% of land in the UK is taken up by urban landscapes, whilst in England this figure is as high as 10%. Due to population growth and urban sprawl we are losing large areas of green space across the UK. This trend is mirrored across Europe, with over 80% of people expected to live in urban areas by 2050.

An aerial survey of the UK in 2015 revealed that over 22,000 hectares of green space was converted to ‘artificial surfaces’ between 2006 and 2012. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland lost and 1,000 hectares of wetland was drained in order to provide more space for our cities.

Here we take a look at the main benefits of urban greening.

Health & Wellbeing

Incredibly, 1 in every 15 deaths across Europe is due to a lack of physical activity. In the UK, only a third of the population achieves the recommended level of exercise – the impact of this on health is estimated to have a direct economic cost of £1 billion per year.

Green space encourages people to get outside and take part in physical activity. It provides a perfect environment to exercise and be active. Research has also shown that social activity increases 83% in green spaces as opposed to sparsely vegetated or grey areas. Green infrastructure has a huge impact upon building community cohesion and generating a greater sense of social inclusion.

Spending time in nature – even for a short time – produces chemicals in the brain that are linked to reducing stress levels, whilst helping to lower blood pressure too. There is clear evidence that exposure to green space improves our mental well-being and reduces the need to treat mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Economic Growth & Regeneration

Green space brings a number of economic opportunities to local areas, as explored in our recent insight ‘How Urban Green Space is driving Local Economies.’

These range from direct employment opportunities relating to maintenance and upkeep, to the income generated for local businesses by an increase in tourists and visitors to the area. Property value is also given a significant boost if in close proximity to green space.

Lowering the Impact of Flooding

Impermeable surfaces are a common feature in urban environments. These include buildings, roads and most hard surfaces that we walk or drive on everyday. But many of them don’t absorb rain and accelerate the flow of water into gutters and drains. When the drainage capacity of an area reaches its limit, flooding occurs resulting in economic loss and disruption. By altering the natural environment with grey infrastructure, we are making these urban environments more prone to flood risk.

However, vegetated surfaces reduce the volume of surface water run-off by storing and intercepting rainfall. For example, studies have shown that green roofs have the capacity to capture 70% of rainfall over a given time. Sustainable drainage systems – or SuDS – can also manage rainwater in a ‘natural’ way, supporting existing drains and sewers. To reduce future flood risk and build greater climate resilience, the UK’s cities and towns must find ways to integrate more green space and vegetation into their urban landscapes.

Reducing the Urban Heat Island Effect

The urban heat island effect occurs because the hard surfaces on roads and buildings accumulate and store heat during the day and then release it at night. Road surfaces, pathways and buildings all contribute to keeping urban areas 3-4 degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside – whilst this figure can be as high as 12 degrees at night.

Trees and green spaces naturally cool the air around them and also provide shade.

London’s Urban Greening experts

These are not the only benefits that urban greening brings to our cities. They are also proven to boost wildlife and improve air quality, which we have explored in our insights ‘Wildlife & Habitats in London’s Landscapes‘ and ‘Combating London’s Air Crisis‘.

Valley Provincial have grown to become one of the leading landscaping companies in London, creating and maintaining green space throughout the capital. From the creation of green rooftop amenity spaces through to parks and mature tree planting, our contribution to London’s green space is significant. We’d be keen to share our expertise with you on your next project.

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