Ensure that people are able to gain key health and quality of life benefits from green infrastructure by protecting, managing and planning green infrastructure in Devon to:
- ensure everyone has access to open green spaces and woodland where people live, in accordance with common standards
- protect and enhance Devon’s high-quality public rights of way and cycle network
- assist in managing air pollution and reducing carbon emissions
The benefits of accessing Devon’s green infrastructure for physical and mental health, for learning and cultural engagement, and for building life skills should be promoted. We will encourage more people to use Devon’s network of green spaces and routes.
Why this is important for Devon and beyond
In short, access to well-planned and managed green infrastructure helps to reduce the incidence of disease and pressure on the public health system. This is supported by evidence from the Sustainable Development Commission about the health benefits that stem from people being able to access the natural environment and a report from the Chief Medical Officer which recognises the multiple benefits that physical activity has for overcoming health issues.
Large areas of accessible open space and woodland, that are within a reasonable distance of where people live offer opportunities to explore and experience the natural environment. The evidence sources above suggest that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are more likely to be physically active and 40% less likely to be overweight; and that those living furthest from parks and green spaces are 27% more likely to be overweight. Also, further research shows that access to natural environments can deliver a range of benefits for those that suffer from mental health issues.
Planting and urban vegetation (which can be public and privately owned) has been shown to reduce the impacts of hot weather, specifically by having a cooling effect. According to research, in 2003, a summer heatwave claimed approximately 35,000 lives across Europe. With the impacts of climate change likely to make for hotter summers in the future, urban planting is likely to play a key role in helping to reduce the impact of climate change on public health. Furthermore, as with nearly all green infrastructure assets, trees are multifunctional, and as well as providing shelter, habitat and a pleasant environment, they can also be used to clean the atmosphere. Improvements in air quality in urban environments benefit the people living and working in them, which has knock-on benefits for the health service.
Strategic priorities and approaches for working together across Devon
6.1: Use Natural England’s Accessible Natural Greenspace standards (ANGSt) and The Woodland Trust’s Accessible Woodland standards to identify those areas where there is insufficient open space and woodland to meet the needs of the population. Where deficiencies exist, policies and projects should be implemented to address this and where new development is built, a suitable standard of open space should be a part of this. A link to Devon-wide mapping of Accessible Natural Greenspace and Accessible Woodland is available in the tools and case studies section below.
6.2: The Devon Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan sets out the policies and priorities for Devon’s Public Rights of Way network. Devon County Council and local communities will work together to ensure that the Rights of Way network is properly managed and opportunities to expand it, where possible, are pursued. Rights of Way need to deliver for as many people as possible, and so access for all users, including wheelchair users, horse riders, and cyclists should be provided wherever practicable – routes also need to be designed to minimise conflict between different users.
6.3: Communities and individuals, particularly landowners, have an important role to play in the maintenance of Public Rights of Way. Those wishing to provide new public rights of way can also do this by utilising Devon County Council’s Public Rights of Way Community Paths Toolkit.
6.4: Policies in local and neighbourhood plans and local authorities should promote street planting as a key part of the developed urban form, providing habitat, shelter, shade and air-cleansing services.
6.5: Promote opportunities for play, education and skills-building in natural settings, through supporting local groups and featuring such topics in school curricula.
6.6: Learn from case studies of how working together results not only in improvements in health and wellbeing but also other benefits.
Tools and case studies to help you
See the Green Infrastructure in your area pages to find out about accessible areas in Devon.
Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards from Natural England
Natural England has set out standards for how much greenspace people should be able to access, and how easily they should be able to access them. The standards state that everyone should be within 10km of an area of 500Ha or more, 5km of an area of 100Ha or more, 2km of an area of 20Ha or more and within 2km of an area 2Ha in size. Devon County Council has undertaken an assessment of the various levels of accessible natural greenspace for the 500Ha, 100Ha and 20Ha areas.
Woodland Access Standards from The Woodland Trust
Public Rights of Way Community Paths Toolkit
Design Guide for Trees
Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE): The national survey on people and the natural environment