At the start of lockdown in March, many public parks and gardens were closed across Britain. This included all National Trust properties, which were closed for over 2 months. One in eight British households do not have a garden. Those living in flats reported feeling “trapped” during lockdown, especially during the strictest lockdown period when leaving home was only permitted for a very limited number of reasons.
Extra challenges were also faced by those who were instructed to shield indoors for 12 weeks or more, including over 70s and people with an underlying health condition. The lack of engagement with the outside world undoubtedly took a toll on their mental health.
Relaxation of lockdown restrictions also brought challenges for individuals and communities across the UK who aimed to enjoy the freedom of outdoor locations, whilst maintaining social distancing.
Lots of people have been visiting beaches, national parks and other outdoor spaces. After thousands of people visited Bournemouth beach on 23rd June, 33 tonnes of litter was left behind – the same weight as 5 elephants!
As inequalities in access to green space have been highlighted through the pandemic, researchers and planners are increasingly asking how best we can add these resources to our urban landscapes?
There is no silver lining to COVID-19, but one positive impact of lockdown on the environment is a reduction in air pollution, in the UK and globally. With less people travelling, there has been a drop in toxic pollutants in major cities, including London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow.
While many hope this reduction will be maintained despite relaxing lockdown measures, there are also concerns that declining use of public transport, particularly in winter weather, might lead to increased car use and further increase in traffic-related pollution.