There are some alarming changes as 'Permitted Development Rights' in England (a national grant of permission for specific types of development) expand. A consultation on the changes comes hot on the heels of significant proposals to reform the planning system in England, set out in last year's Planning White Paper: Planning for the Future. In the apparent hurry to push through these changes, the Government is at real risk of harming wildlife and habitats - and seriously limiting people's access to nature on their doorsteps.
This increasing physical ‘disconnection’ is what has led to the majority of the UK’s adults and children not feeling like they are part of the natural world, or they have a stake in its future.
We must help people re-connect with nature where they are.
People’s personal connection to nature at both a physical and emotional level is declining as nature becomes a less frequent and significant part of our daily lives. Lack of access to nature is proven to be a significant factor in health inequalities. Health harm from climate change is already increasing. The affect will be worse on people living in our more deprived communities, where there is already less nature: children in deprived areas are nine times less likely to have access to green space and places to play.
What can be done? Make sure people have a say.
An effective way of tackling the deep-rooted health inequalities that exist in our society is to give people and communities more control over their lives. A planning system that recognises this would ensure that people have a real say in what goes on in their neighbourhoods - critically, before the go-ahead is given to new developments that will impact on their lives, their local wildlife and their access to green spaces.
In March 2020, Public Health England published a major review of the substantial evidence on the health benefits for people that have access to green spaces, and the impact therefore on inequalities in health that people experience. The review found compelling evidence that access to greenspaces is critical for population health and that easy access to greenspace resulted in a wide range of health benefits - from lower levels of cardiovascular disease through to maintaining a healthier weight.