This project was sponsored by the Accelerate programme, a healthcare innovation programme aligned with Welsh Government’s Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 20151 and A Healthier Wales Plan for Health and Social Care2.
The core aim of our project was to work with the community surrounding Pentre Awel to co-produce plans for improving the quality and access to natural spaces in this area.
In the first phase of the project, researchers from Cardiff University asked primary school children at Ysgol Pen Rhos and their parents to explore Seaside Park whilst wearing small recorders to record their conversations. These conversations provided naturalistic, open-ended evidence about how children and adults experience nature in their local community.
In the second phase, researchers worked with project partners including children and teachers at Ysgol Pen Rhos to elicit design thinking around how children and adults connect with nature and with each other.
In the third phase, academic and enterprise partners worked with community members and other stakeholders to develop an action plan for nature in the community, centred around the children’s voices. The action plan drew on ideas and priorities children and adults communicated in Phases 1 and 2.
Pentre Awel is a new development along the Llanelli coast that will include housing, business, education, research, and leisure facilities.
Our project engages children, parents and teachers at Ysgol Pen Rhos in open-ended conversations about their communities and physical environments, provide creative making tasks to elicit design thinking around how communities connect with nature and with each other, and yields an action plan for making space for nature in communities.
Our project creates an opportunity for both children and adults to use their “outside voices” and a mechanism for their voices to be heard.
- Engaging the community in open-ended conversations about their immediate surroundings, including both natural and built environments.
- Engaging the community in design thinking around how communities connect with nature and with each other.
- Co-producing recommendations about making space for nature in the existing community and in the future development at Pentre Awel.
These three complementary aims together support the short-term objectives of involving the community in planning processes for Pentre Awel and evidencing the value of green spaces in the area as well as the longer-term objective of improved health and wellbeing outcomes for the people of Wales.
The UK Government’s 25-year Environment Plan3 aims to “enhance beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment” by making sure that there are high quality, accessible, natural spaces close to where people live and work, particularly in urban areas, and encouraging more people to spend time in them to benefit their health and wellbeing.
Spending time in nature is positively linked to human health and wellbeing as well as environmental behaviour at all life stages. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (2019)4 measures deprivation based on eight factors, of which access to green space is one.
Disadvantaged communities are more likely to encounter barriers to engaging with nature, including lack of access, lack of confidence, and concerns about safety (Bates et al., 2018).
What the research shows
Our research shows that the Glanymor Community is one that highly values nature, with both children and adults expressing a deep appreciation for their natural environment. Children in the community expressed a desire for increased biodiversity, and more inclusive places to play and connect with both nature and the community at large. School staff identified a need for more opportunities for children to engage with nature more regularly, both on the school grounds and in the wider community, including the nearby coast.
However, safety concerns were identified as a significant barrier to spending time in nature for both children and adults in the community. Traffic and waste management were identified as key concerns that need to be addressed to ensure safe and enjoyable experiences in natural settings.
Currently policies do not address these concerns in a holistic way. There is a need for more connected policies and structures that can better facilitate the creation of outdoor spaces that prioritise nature and provide safe, accessible opportunities for engagement with the natural world.
One potential solution identified by our research is the co-production of neighbourhood plans.
By involving community members in the planning and design of outdoor spaces, we can bridge the gap between current experiences in the community and their vision for a more nature-orientated future.
Through this process, we can work together to create more inclusive and sustainable outdoor spaces that prioritise both the health and safety of community members and the preservation of the natural environment.
The co-production process identified several key recommendations for making space for nature in Glanymor ward and at Pentre Awel. One important recommendation is to continue engaging and consulting with children and young people from different age groups and backgrounds. By involving these groups in the planning and design of outdoor spaces, we can ensure that their voices are heard and their needs are addressed. This can lead to the creation of more inclusive and accessible outdoor spaces that prioritise both the health and wellbeing of community members and the preservation of the natural environment.
Another key recommendation is to produce some of the ideas suggested by children and teachers in collaboration with them. This can help to build a sense of ownership and investment in the outdoor spaces, as community members see their ideas and suggestions come to life. By working together in this way, we can create more vibrant and engaging outdoor spaces that foster a sense of community and connection to nature.
Finally, the co-production process highlighted the need for continued research on when and how local places such as parks, school grounds, streets and woodlands increase connection to community. By understanding how different outdoor spaces impact community members in different ways, we can better design and manage these spaces to meet the needs of the community. This can lead to the creation of more effective and sustainable outdoor spaces that provide opportunities for nature connection, community building and enhanced wellbeing for all the members of the Glanymor Community.
Project partners and key stakeholders
Cardiff University’s Schools of Psychology and Geography and Urban Planning, Urban Habitats Consulting Limited, Learning through Landscapes Limited, Ysgol Pen Rhos, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, Carmarthenshire County Council.
Accelerate is funded by Welsh Government’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by the Life Science Hub Wales in partnership with Cardiff University, Swansea University and The University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Funding from the European Regional Development Fund via the Clinical Innovation Accelerator £39,099
Match funding from collaborative partners Cardiff University, Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Learning through Landscapes, Ysgol Pen Rhos, and Carmarthenshire County Council £90,145
1 Welsh Government, Well-being of Future Generations Act, Welsh Government website (Accessed 10/3/2023)
2 Welsh Government, A healthier Wales plan for Health and Social Care, Welsh Government website (accessed 10/2/2023)
3 UK Government, 25 Year Environment Action Plan, UK Government Website (accessed 10/3/2023)
4 Welsh Government, Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, Welsh Government (accessed 10/3/2023)