Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Saving green spaces

Published in the Llanelli Herald on 22nd November 2017

I read a report recently, which said that people recover faster in a hospital when they have a bed with a garden view, than when their window faces onto a wall of adjoining buildings. It brought home to me the importance of green space in our lives.

In a lot of ways, it’s how we develop a sense of community in the first place. Saturday afternoons in the park with a book, a football, a picnic; a bike ride, a long walk with the dog, a bag of chips or an ice-cream on a wooden bench taking in the view. We all like to spend time outside where open spaces, natural surroundings and the interactions these bring with others help to calm our minds, keep us active and increase our happiness.

I’ve recently moved house, and one of the things that first attracted me to my new home was how close it is to Parc Howard. A short walk and I’m in one of Llanelli town’s gems.

What a shame then that so many of our precious green spaces are at risk. We are living through a time when demand for new housing has never been higher and it is absolutely right that we  build new houses for our younger generation. But, given that housing is the biggest driver of change in the loss of green space, isn’t it time for housing developers to make sure that gardens and parks are central to their developments?

Like most people, some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing outside. But with increased traffic on the road, parks closing or being neglected due to public cuts and new houses being built with much smaller gardens, today’s children may not experience that same sense of freedom and independence.

And once green space has been lost, we can never get it back. This is why I asked the council to look at brownfield sites for the new Ysgol Dewi Sant instead of digging up another precious piece of public space. Yes, the school needs a new building, but the loss of Llanerch Fields is at a cost.

Children deserve a place to play, they need fresh air and exercise, and they don’t ask for much. When questioned by community members on what they would like to see in Parc Howard, children responded overwhelmingly with a request for a field to kick a ball around in. The families of the new Parc-Y-Strade housing development are demanding nothing more than the children’s play area that they believe were on the developer’s original plans. Councillors in Tyisha ward, one of the poorest in Wales, want just one park for its children.

Green spaces seem to have become a perk. I think that they are still crucial to our lives.

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