Dr Rebecca Geary
Dr Rebecca Geary
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Researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh and Queen's University Belfast are transforming how communities, organisations and government work together to ensure urban green and blue spaces benefit our people and planet.

The context

Natural environments in urban areas, such as parks, woodlands and lakes, can help to mitigate climate change and resilience to its impacts, as well as benefiting our health. They have positive impacts on our mental health and wellbeing, physical health and fitness, and social cohesion.

Greener environments benefit disadvantaged communities the most, making them important for tackling differences in health related to low-income (health inequalities).

Green spaces also reduce the chance of flooding, can improve air quality, provide shade, encourage active travel, and reduce outdoor air temperatures; all key issues in adapting to climate change. These spaces can also help support the fundamentals of life, such as housing, food and energy, required to create long term sustainability and social, economic and environmental impact.

The challenge

Urban green and blue spaces could be huge assets for protecting health, improving our resilience to climate change and mitigating its impacts. But this depends on them being available, accessible, valued, and used by everyone. The problem is that they are not. This is largely because the policies, organisations and communities involved in designing, creating, managing, promoting, maintaining and using urban green and blue spaces are disconnected, with the voices of less advantaged communities and young people often not heard.

The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted avoidable and unfair differences in people’s access to urban green spaces.

Sefton Park lake

Images: Sefton Park lake, by Bob Coyne on Unsplash

Working in partnership

The urban green and blue spaces we currently have are not always the ones we need for better health and for tackling climate change.

The GroundsWell  programme of research and engagement aims to change that, transforming our cities from the ground up. Our vision is for a world where communities, organisations and government work together to ensure urban green and blue spaces benefit everyone, especially those who need them most.

The programme will be shaped and developed in three pioneer cities: Belfast, Edinburgh and Liverpool, working with communities and providing a template for improving urban greenspaces to benefit health and climate change in other cities in the UK and beyond.

The team in Belfast with our partners at EastSide Partnership, have already been exploring how urban green and blue spaces can address climate issues such as providing sustainable: energy sources, housing, food sources and travel modes. GroundsWell will continue to challenge, influence and explore what’s needed to help us lead ‘greener’ lives in our communities and cities.