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Barking conference hears greener cities are healthier cities

Experts from across Europe gathered in Barking to explore how greener cities can benefit human health and well-being.

The Sustainable & Healthy New Towns Conference drew 100 delegates from a range of environmental, health and regeneration organisations. At the meeting they examined the findings of a European-funded research team, known as TURAS (Transitioning towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability) which looked at the relationship between residents of Barking Riverside and their environment.

It highlighted a lack of awareness of the green infrastructure and the benefits it brings within the growing new town. Their work helped bring the community together to explore options like community gardens.

“More than 70% of EU citizens live in towns or cities, they consume 75% of global energy and emit 80% of greenhouse gases. They overheat, have flooding problems and lack wildlife,” said Councillor Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council.

“Our conference brought together some of the most forward-thinking planners, developers and academics to discuss how we can ensure cities – particularly growth areas like Barking and Dagenham - provide attractive, healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods. This isn’t simply about aesthetics; the evidence shows that this is good for the environment but most importantly, good for people’s health and well-being too.”

A key attraction was the stunning mobile green living room, a demountable garden space which started its seven city European tour from Barking. Bursting with scent and colour, and with flowers and herbs, kiwis and strawberries growing from the walls and vertical gardens, the aim of this unique touring green space, piloted in Germany, is to help city dwellers learn about the benefits of green spaces, especially:

  • Increasing wildlife: providing wildflowers and supporting birds and insects such as bees
  • Urban heat-island effect: it helps to reduce higher temperature in inner city areas
  • Storm water runoff:  absorbs heavy rainfall from storms to reduce local flooding
  • Reduces noise pollution: provides a sound barrier to create an oasis of calm in city centres
  • Absorbs carbon: plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, improving air quality.

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