Greener spaces for people and wildlife

Roger Proudfoot
Roger Proudfoot
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Roger Proudfoot, Peterborough Green Party

65% of UK species that we have data for have declined, 30% strongly in the last 50 years including more than 50% of bee and butterfly species and iconic mammals such as the hedgehog and water vole. These are shocking but not perhaps not surprising findings in the landmark State of Nature Report 2013 compiled by 25 UK conservation and research organisations.

In order to reverse the decline first and foremost we need protection of our Green spaces. There are many concerted efforts by a range of conservation charities and none government organisations that help ensure such protection is put in place and maintained. This is critical to the future of our native wildlife. In order to maintain that protection we need to ensure the stewardship of these protected areas is taken on by the next generation – a tall order when we are competing with a plethora of computer games, consoles, tablets and smartphones. The onus therefore has to be on creating green spaces that are accessible not far away in some distant place not served by public transport and only reachable by car. We need to bring 
nature back into peoples lives so that children can interact with butterflies and frogs, the hedgehogs and robins.

Why is this important? We only have to look around to see that as a population we are experiencing increasing levels of obesity and physical inactivity and one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. The presence of local, accessible wildlife can encourage physical activity and help to improve health. These are some of the facts:

1. Individuals with easy access to nature are three times more likely to participate in physical activity and 40% less likely to become overweight or obese

2. People living near moderate or high quality green space are twice as likely to report low psychological distress than those living near low quality open spaces.

3. The simple act of viewing nature from a window can reduce stress, increase recovery from illness and improve concentration and mood.

4. Nature near the home reduces the risk of crime, aggression and domestic violence.

(Source: Secret Spaces, Wildlife Trusts)

So how can Peterborough take advantage of its natural environment and realise these benefits? The first step is to know more about where our green spaces are and what potential they have for wildlife. The Bristol green space-mapping project by the Wildlife Trust is a great example of what can be achieved mapping and categorising green spaces in relation to potential for wildlife. In Peterborough we have 8 biodiversity areas, 3 of which are recreation grounds and grass cutting 3 x per annum. There is no promotion of these areas (they are not even mentioned on the councils website) and Peterborough is a long way behind other cities in considering its green spaces. There is a need to categorise Peterborough spatially and to change the criteria for defining green spaces so we can encourage better connection of wildlife corridors and people.

Let’s not feel overwhelmed by the decline in our native wildlife. We can all help individually too. If you have a space in a garden no matter how small you can make a difference. Even if you sink a washing up bowl into the ground you will find frogs visiting your garden. Put a hedgehog-sized hole in your fence to help connect feeding areas. Plant a range of native wildflowers in an area of rough ground and the bees and butterflies will come. Volunteer with a local community group to look after your green spaces. Better still join the Peterborough Green Party and help us get our first green councilor elected on May the 5th so we can start to reverse the decline and improve the wellbeing of Peterborough for people and wildlife.

https://peterborough.greenparty.org.uk

Link to Sate of Nature Report:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/stateofnature_tcm9-345839.pdf

Link to Secret Spaces Report:

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/secret_spaces_local_wildlife_sites_2014_summary_report.pdf

To help hedgehogs and record their presence visit the following link and become a hedgehog champion:

http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/hedgehog-street.html