As research* highlights that 75% of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates, a major Scottish environmental forum has emphasised the importance of greenspace for young people.
The annual Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) Forum focused on ‘Children, Young People + Greenspace = A Healthy Equation’ as world-renowned experts shared their insights on the ways that Central Scotland could work to improve children’s health, mental well-being and educational outcomes.
With a fifth of children* not playing outside at all on an average day, Keith Geddes, Chair of CSGN, explained the role of the Forum.
He said: “Every day we hear concerning reports about the health of children in Scotland which is among the worst in Europe and it is essential that we recognise the vital importance of greenspace and outdoor activities for healthy, active children and young people.
“Being outside affords children the opportunity to develop core life skills that aren’t readily available indoors. Playing alongside others also aids in the learning of key communication abilities. If we are to encourage the growth of our young people then we must design areas that allow them to flourish.”
Hanna Johansson, an associate architect with Bjarke Ingels Group, provided an insight into the Billund City Vision. The 30-year plan is focused on transforming Billund, which is the birthplace of LEGO®, into Denmark's Capital of Children where children can grow up to flourish as creative citizens of the world.
Hanna highlighted that 'if it's good for children then it's good for everyone' and the initiative is focused on creating a town ‘on children’s terms’ where playfulness is at the heart of the city’s design and management.
This approach will see Billund become a national and international centre for new experiences, knowledge and research that support learning through play, for the benefit of children all over the world
Green infrastructure is a major part of this approach with the river running through the city being opened up for greater public use and the design of offices and the city’s two main tourist attractions being visually connected to the surrounding greenspace. The vision is now being delivered through a range of projects including the new LEGO® House as well as a series of events and activities on the ground.
Adam White, who played a key role in the £5.7 million regeneration of Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, highlighted the importance of designing areas focused on reconnecting people, places and nature.
Cuningar Loop was part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy which saw the formerly derelict land transformed with an extensive path network, adventure play facility, bike skills area, Scotland’s first outdoor bouldering park, a woodland workout and outdoor classroom.
Adam underlined the need to create more accessible and inclusive nature play spaces that help reconnect children of all abilities with nature by increasing the diversity of play and learning opportunities, encouraging more creative and co-operative play as well as offering sensory stimulation through sounds, fragrances, textures, tactile interaction and visual complexity.
As Europe’s largest greenspace initiative, CSGN is working to transform the central belt into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality. Stretching from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Dunbartonshire in the west, to Fife and Lothians in the east, it encompasses 19 local authorities across 10,000sq km and has the potential to benefit 3.5million people, equating to 70 per cent of Scotland’s population.
For further information on CSGN please visit www.centralscotlandgreennetwork.org/forum
*Guardian – March 2016