As the new year gets underway many of us are thinking about improving our diet and exercise regimes to boost our wellbeing. But recent reports suggest we should also be looking at where we live. A study led by neuroscientist Dr Andrea Mechelli, launched at the start of the year, found exposure to natural features, including trees, the sky and birdsong, to have a beneficial and enduring impact on wellbeing, with the positive effects of spending time in the garden lasting up to seven hours.
This research echoes what many of us working in the residential development sector have long felt to be true: there are strong links between our living environment and our sense of wellbeing.
Indeed, the issue will be particularly front of mind for developers in the light of the UK Government’s recently launched paper, A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. In the paper, Theresa May pledges to introduce a ‘net environmental gain’ principle with a view to incorporating commitments on green infrastructure into national planning guidance and policy.
Among these aims are: helping people improve their health and wellbeing by using green spaces, including through mental health services; encouraging children to be close to nature, with a particular focus on disadvantaged areas; and ‘greening’ our towns and cities by creating green infrastructure and planting one million urban trees.
Peter Frankum, of Savills Urban Design team, says gardens become even more essential when delivering higher densities, providing essential green relief and helping ensure adequate back-to-back distances to help avoid over-shadowing. He believes it will become increasingly important for developers to incorporate easy access to amenity green space into their plans: this could be anything from private balconies, terraces and gardens to access to shared communal green space.
Certainly access to outdoor space is often a real pull factor for buyers of contemporary urban developments, as these properties currently for sale demonstrate: