Kingston Council invests in ‘happy spaces’ for the borough

Kingston Council has partnered with Kingston First to add two new areas of green space to the borough, to be called happy spaces.

The two sites will be located on Eagle Brewery Wharf on Kingston’s riverside and Memorial Gardens.

Councillor Caroline Kerr, leader of Kingston Council, said: “I am really excited that this project will transform these two spaces in the town centre into lovely, accessible places where you can sit down, relax and enjoy being outdoors.

“If Covid has taught us anything, it is how precious our green and open spaces are to the whole community.”

Greater accessibility around Kingston

Kingston is currently undergoing major regeneration. 

Happy spaces – linked to the Reimagining Kingston project –  focuses on how public spaces can be invested in to improve the experience of Kingston, as well as encouraging more people to move around all parts of the town.

The project also aims to ensure that the town’s culture, heritage and riverside assets continue to be developed.

Happy spaces will help transform Kingston, within the aims of Reimagining Kingston. It aims to:

  • Enhance alleyways to link the riverside and the town centre.
  • Address perceived and physical severance between the area north of the station and the town centre.
  • Break down severance of the gyratory by clustering activities, and improving links, join the dots between local assets by improving key routes and way-finding.

Involving Kingston residents

Happy spaces wants to involve Kingston residents in the planning process as much as possible.

Davies White Landscape and The Edible Bus Stop, Kingston based landscape architecture companies which are designing happy spaces, said: “Members of the public, community groups, residents and local businesses are invited to share their views on how to shape these spaces through a blended mix of online and Covid-19 safe in-person events starting in February until April.”       

The first online engagement session for the public will be held on Monday March 1 between 6 – 7pm. To sign-up email design@davieswhite.co.uk.

The final design ideas will be available online by the end of June 2021.

Mental health

One of the key aims of happy spaces is to create new areas of green space to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of Kingston residents.

Kirsten Henly, chief executive of Kingston First, said: “Wellbeing is more important than ever and we want to bring that feeling of happiness to the people who work, live and play in our town centre.”

A survey conducted by mental health charity Mind said that 60 per cent, more than half of adults, and over two thirds of young people, 68 per cent, say their mental health has worsened during lockdown, from their 16,338 completed responses.

Mind said that due to Covid-19, many people are experiencing mental health problems for the first time.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is as much a mental health emergency as it is a physical one… Many people who were previously well will now develop mental health problems, as a direct consequence of the pandemic.”

Covid-19 has brought new challenges to many people’s mental health: being unable to socialise with family and friends, fear of the virus, loneliness, boredom and not being able to go outside except for essential reasons.

Sarah O’Neill, a Kingston resident, said: “I don’t think I am alone in my mental health getting worse during lockdown… I really miss being out and about with my family and friends.”

Mind’s survey confirmed one of the main coping strategies for dealing with poorer mental health during Covid-19 as spending time outside. 67 per cent of the 16,338 completed responses said this.

Being outside in green space allows people to feel more relaxed, active, and allows you to make new connections.

O’Neill said: “Kingston is missing green space, I often find myself walking around the town centre, which is eery because all the shops are closed, but I do it because I know it’s good for my mind to get out of the house… it would have been good if these new green spaces were there now.”

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