Will green spaces with trees get the recognition they deserve in the official ‘happiness’ consultation?
The Government’s public health white paper ‘healthy lives, healthy people’ (published last year) recognised that trees are officially good for your health, and the importance of the quality of the environment within which people live to their physical and mental health. It also talks about the Government’s own Big Tree Plant campaign acknowledging that:
“increased tree cover would help to improve residents’ quality of life and reduce the negative effects of deprivation, including health inequalities”.
Add this to the evidence collected by nef, the New Economics Foundation, as part of the Happy Planet Index and Charter, which also discusses in its ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ the hypothesis that green space reduces mental fatigue. It’s so important that these findings are officially acted upon, and incorporate what is already known about the many benefits trees bring to our quality of life.
We’re currently in the process of preparing our own official response to the consultation on the Proposed Domains and Headline Indicators for Measuring National Well-being, led by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), and would urge you to respond yourself while you have the opportunity.
You can take part here.
The Trust feels that the ‘where we live’ section needs to more strongly reflect the emphasis on ‘access to green space’ which emerged from the initial consultation. Given the well-established evidence base that exists around trees and well being, we believe that a measure on ‘access to green spaces with trees’ would be the appropriate measure here.
Enhancing public health is one of the biggest challenges facing modern society. Easily accessible woods close to where people live provide measurable benefits in terms of:
- Encouraging people to take exercise
- Helping reduce the mental stresses of modern society
- Improving air quality
- Reducing respiratory diseases
Each of the above makes a positive contribution to people’s quality of life and therefore happiness. Action on this measure can also be guided by existing work on measuring woodland access in the form of the Woodland Trust’s Woodland Access Standard. The Standard, which is based on wide ranging research and surveys of public opinion aspires:
- That no person should live more than 500m from at least one area of accessible woodland of no less than 2ha in size.
- That there should be at least one area of accessible woodland of no less than 20ha within 4km (8km roundtrip) of people’s homes
Given that the consultation is about what makes members of the public happy, individual responses are particularly important. We need your help in calling for ‘access to green spaces with trees’ to be recognized as one of the key final measures adopted. Not only will this give a great boost to ensuring that everyone, wherever they live, benefits from trees through well targeted woodland creation. But by calling for ‘access to green space with trees’ to be a measure, you can also help move trees right up the political agenda. Woodland matters. It’s time to make official what we, our supporters and so many others already know – that woods and trees make a key contribution to the everyday quality of life for us all.
James Cooper, head of government affairs