The council’s Policy Development Committee (PDC) for Poverty Reduction, chaired by Mary, is working on a policy to ensure that the benefits of green infrastructure are enjoyed by all our communities.
It has been known for a long time that Swansea is a county of two halves, where the affluent West has some of the wealthiest areas in Wales while the deprived East has some of the poorest. This inequality has impacts in all sorts of areas, notably health and life expectancy. A man in Swansea West can reasonably be expected to outlive a man in Swansea East by 15 years. Many factors contribute to this. People with lower incomes may be unable to access fresh, healthy food, which often isn’t available in small, local shops and supermarkets may be too far away to get to cheaply. Low-income living is fraught with stress and anxiety, which can in themselves shave years off a life, and along the way they can push people into smoking and drinking to feel able to cope with daily pressure or unexpected crisis. Many people are locked in low-paid work which doesn’t give them the time or space to exercise or enjoy fresh air. It all adds up.
Research shows that spending time in green space many positive effects on the mind and body, such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure. Air pollution, which contributes significantly to ill health, is lessened in areas where trees are present. Trees and greenery help to protect homes, gardens and people from the ravages of extreme weather, reducing flooding and providing shelter from strong sun, rain and wind. Looking at how trees and greenery are placed around Swansea, we get a sense of ironic injustice. The households least able to afford insurance live in areas with the least protection from the effects of climate change. The families least able to afford healthy lifestyles live away from greenery that could help their health.
By working with colleagues in the health services, Natural Resources Wales and the council’s Nature Conservation Team, the Poverty Reduction PDC hopes to produce a policy that will see more priority given to greening up our more deprived neighbourhoods, hopefully giving those people in areas struggling with low income and poor health the same access to de-stressing, air-cleansing, beneficial green infrastructure as those in more affluent areas.