1. Accessible quality green space

//1. Accessible quality green space

1. Accessible quality green space

Recommendation: Ensure accessible good quality green space available to all

Green spaces, if well-designed and well-maintained, have the potential for positive impacts on physical and mental health and wellbeing, and environmental quality. Yet many people today – particularly those living in low-income areas – do not have access to quality green spaces, with the pressures of ever-increasing urbanisation threatening this access further still. Where green space exists in disadvantaged neighbourboods, it often does not meet community needs and is poorly designed and maintained, which can lead to feelings of insecurity or contribute to underuse. Alongside the environmental and health benefits, access to green space can also help to reduce health inequalities. Focus group reactions to the INHERIT future scenarios reflect that the availability of green space, variously allowing for more active mobility, community activities and growing healthier food, is highly valued.[1]. Evidence from INHERIT also confirms high rates of economic return from investing in quality green spaces.[2]

Voices from INHERIT

Today in the cities there are only few parks, not many places for cycling. The governments should be engaged in opening parks, places for people to walk.

Macedonia, 62, Middle Income

Where I live right now, I have to walk 20 minutes until there is something green and to be honest, I cannot afford it (…)  otherwise I would (…) move (…) in the country where there is a green area or whatever.

Germany, 40, Low Income

For example, when I leave home I must go a few kilometres to get to the first green space, and I will pollute the area because I take my children by car. I am not sure what I do more – damage or satisfying my needs.

Macedonia, 36, Low Income

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

National and sub-national   EU level
  • Include investment in green spaces in climate adaptation plans and in plans to reduce health inequalities.
  • Foster cross-sectoral collaboration (See Recommendation 5 on Integrated action), for instance encouraging public/private bodies developing green spaces to bring together housing developers, urban planners, public health professionals and community members in their design, implementation and maintenance (See also Policy Brief on integrated governance).
  • Promote the use of green space as a way to improve health and wellbeing, for instance by encouraging health professionals to promote using green space (e.g. through group gardening activities).[3]
  • Residents in low-income neighbourhoods are less likely to have access to quality green spaces, but are likely to benefit most from them.[4]. Possible areas to redevelop include:
    • Public spaces which are run-down or disused, and which can be turned into parks and paths (Restructuring Green Space; Malvik Path)
    • Community gardens, which can be developed so that residents can use them to grow sustainably produced, organic food. (The Food Garden)
    • Already existing green spaces which are only accessible via fees, and which can be opened to all for free (Thinking Fadura)
  • The use of green space depends on life-stage, lifestyle factors and individual values. Involving communities in the design and maintenance of green spaces makes it more likely for the spaces to meet the needs of and be actively used by a wider variety of (age/gender/minority) groups. (Restructuring Green Space)
  • Engage first with residents before beginning to redevelop a green space – it may be that other issues are more important to them, that they would like to see addressed first.
  • Ensure any redevelopment plans continue to meaningfully engage community members throughout the process of design and implementation, and address their ideas, needs and concerns.
  • Reserve budget for the maintenance of green space as well as capacity building. Invite residents to participate in the maintenance of the space, and provide support and training to encourage this.
  • See Recommendation 7 for more on meaningful public engagement.
  • Enabling more disadvantaged populations to use green space is not just about access and exposure, it is also about connection, which links to the experience. The sense of connection to the natural environment is built in before age 12,[5] and vulnerable populations are amongst the most disconnected.[6] It is therefore important to ensure early, stimulating experiences for all children with the natural environment by “normalising” green spaces within the education system (See Recommendation 10 on Education, and GemüseAckerdemie).

  • All population groups should feel welcome. Organise activities to create social cohesion. Sufficient seating areas (benches) are for example a key predictor of use.[7]
  • Ensure good quality: accessible, attractive, well-maintained green spaces with room for socialisation and where people feel safe (e.g. through good lighting), bearing in mind that the spaces need to be fit for purpose and aligned with community needs.
  • Ensure the space is well-connected via public transport and easily accessible by foot or bicycle from targeted areas (e.g. those areas with little green space), as this is a crucial factor for effective use. Very local green spaces (pocket parks) enable greening of even densely urban areas. Green corridors, connecting green areas in and between communities, and urban centres with rural areas, offer a good opportunity for active transport (walking, cycling), and for access to these spaces.
  • Encourage Member States, regional and local level governments to develop and implement coherent plans to invest in green spaces (for instance through InvestEU Programmes, EU Structural and Investment Funds, or by including incentives for more publicly accessible green spaces, woodlands and footpaths in Common Agricultural Policy national and regional development support programmes). An INHERIT case study (Thinking Fadura) that involved the renovation and opening up of a park to public use found it both economically feasible and profitable to society, providing returns on investment after 15 years, which is typical for projects related to green infrastructures. The park created more opportunities for recreational activity and improved health, with improved accessibility for vulnerable groups and a better connected community and has environmental benefits (trees and biodiversity). Another green space initiative studied (Malvik Path) was already economically feasible and profitable from a societal perspective after a year.
  • Include green space investments as social investments in for example EU Health, Social, Regional and Environmental Programmes, as well as the European Semester recommendations for social and economic priorities (aligned with the SDGs as of 2020), and the prospective European Green Deal and Just Transition Fund, or by considering nature-based solutions in relation to climate adaptation policies. Stimulate actors from different sectors that are seeking investment through these programmes to come together to develop ‘triple-win’ solutions.
  • Ensure future Horizon Europe and other relevant EU programmes support research and innovation initiatives to gather and share the evidence on the environmental, health and social benefits of investing in green space as well as good practice via EU communications platforms and Joint Actions with EU Member States.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies

Malvik Path

Three-kilometer path created from a disused railway. Increasingly used since opening, by lower socio-economic groups. Assessed as economically beneficial, after only a year of use.

The Food Garden

Community garden providing organic food for low-income families, staffed by volunteers from vulnerable groups. Provides healthy and sustainable food, work activation and garden education opportunities for vulnerable populations, and increased green space in an urban area.


Training programme for teachers to bring children outdoors and educate them about food production. Grew from 1 pilot to over 400 programmes across 3 countries.

Thinking Fadura

Previously a fee-only green space, now open to the general public. Increasingly used since opening, with lower socio-economic groups standing to benefit most. Assessed as economically beneficial (net present value of around €1.2 million).

Restructuring Green Space

Restructured communal outdoor space in a low-income urban neighbourhood in Breda, carried out through a long-term collaborative approach between different stakeholders, including citizens. The restructuring led to an increase in the use of the space.

Tool: INHERIT Promising practice database


Over 100 promising practices from across Europe, including on green spaces.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

Policy roundtable (UK)

National-level INHERIT Policy Roundtable report (2019) Urban Open Spaces: enabling activities to maximise positive impacts on environmental sustainability, health and equity. UCL: London.

Report: Baseline review

Staatsen, B., van der Vliet, N., Kruize, H., et al. (2017) INHERIT: Exploring triple-win solutions for living, moving and consuming that encourage behavioural change, protect the environment, promote health and health equity. Chapter 4

Article: urban green space

Kruize, H, van der Vliet, N, Staatsen B et al. (2019) Urban Green Space: Creating a triple win for environmental sustainability, health, and health equity through behavior change. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 16(22), 4403.

2020-01-23T16:42:02+01:00November 27, 2019|Keys areas|Comments Off on 1. Accessible quality green space