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More people than ever visiting parks, Government survey reveals

Visits to city parks and green spaces in England were up by 25% in 2016 compared to 2010, according to new research published by Natural England.

The report brings together findings from their annual ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment’ (MENE) public survey, which explores how people living in urban areas engage with the natural environment and visit urban greenspaces.

The report also found that more people are visiting the natural environment within towns and cities across England than ever before with an estimated 879 million visits to parks in towns and cities in 2015/16.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan aims to connect more people with the environment by creating more green infrastructure in towns and cities, helping people improve their health and wellbeing by using green spaces and encouraging children to be close to nature, with a particular focus on disadvantaged areas.

Principle specialist for people and the environment at Natural England, Rose O’Neill, said:  ‘The MENE survey gives us a valuable insight into how people enjoy the great outdoors.

‘We know that lots of us love a visit to our local park or favourite green spot and it is great to see this is on the rise. Research has shown a clear and important link between urban greenspaces and mental health which underlines the important role the natural environment can have in all of our lives.’

Data from March 2009 to February 2016 was analysed and showed:

  • Urban greenspaces are increasingly utilised with an estimated 1.46 billion visits in 2015/16 compared with 1.16 billion visits in 2009/10.
  • 93% of the urban population claimed to have taken visits to the natural environment for recreation in the last 12 months.
  • There has been a decrease in the use of cars and vans to reach urban greenspaces between 2010 and 2016 with around seven in ten visits taken on foot in 2015/16.
  • Public parks, recreation grounds and other greenspaces were the most common places visited within towns and cities (47 per cent, 9 per cent and 14 per cent of all visits respectively), but people also reported visiting urban woodlands (5 per cent), rivers and canals (7%).
  • For some urban residents visits to the natural environment may be the only opportunity to exercise.

The MENE survey is funded by Natural England, with support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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