This year has demonstrated a renewed interest in greenspaces, as the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in greenspaces becoming even more important for facilitating social interaction, exercise, and respite from the household (Kale, 2020). Recognising this growing area of research, over the ‘Summer’ I was involved in a staff/student research project in collaboration with Sheffield City Council and funded by the Department of Natural and Built Environment, evaluating a number of Sheffield’s greenspaces, particularly during the different stages of lockdown.
Sheffield, dubbed ‘The Outdoor City’, has approaching 1,000 greenspaces (Dobson and Dempsey, 2019); formed the basis for this research, alongside a successful bid to host a greenspace-themed event as part of the Festival of Social Sciences (FOSS). Research into greenspaces is important, given that these sites have been discussed to provide a multitude of benefits, even before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic; despite the myriad cuts made as a result of austerity measures (Dempsey and Burton, 2012; Dickinson and Marson, 2019). The aims of this particular research reflected the existing literature, but also sought to explore the respondents reliance on greenspaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, and potential changes they would like to see made to their greenspace in future as a result.
Following the findings from the research, this FoSS event will encourage a public debate, exploring the future of Sheffield’s greenspaces. The panel will comprise a range of stakeholders involved in greenspaces, including greenspace academics, Sheffield City Council, organisations such as The Parks Alliance, The Parks Management Forum, the Midlands Park Forum, and will be chaired by Dr Julian Dobson from the Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research and Urban Pollinators. This event should encourage a well informed and vibrant public debate surrounding the future of Sheffield’s greenspaces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Points of discussion for the panel include the envisaged long-term effects that the pandemic will potentially have, such as an increase in the number of ‘Friends of Parks’ groups, and reprioritisation of local authority resources allocated to greenspace management. Attendees will also be invited to questions of the panel and share their opinion on the future of Sheffield’s greenspaces, reflecting the importance of public engagement that formed the aims of the original piece of research. Engagement with the public in this event should further fuel public interest in greenspaces and engagement in future academic research.
If you would like any more information about the research, and/or the FoSS event, please contact the author (email@example.com). A link to register for the event can be found here. We’re looking forward to hearing your views on the importance of Sheffield’s greenspaces, and how communities can work together to secure their long-term future.
By Benjamin Archer, PhD student at the Sheffield Institute for Policy Studies.
With thanks to the contributors: Dr Jill Dickinson & Dermot Jagger, a recent LLB Law graduate.