As lockdown is eased, people returning to the high street are more interested in green spaces, planting and outdoor seating than the ability to shop, according to a survey carried out by a place management specialist.
The poll canvassed opinions from more than 2,300 people on a range of town centre features and facilities – with the take home message that an ambient environment, a focus on community and spending more time with friends are the key elements we want to see.
The survey echoes the findings of long standing scientific studies which point to the benefit of nature and community to help our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
The survey, carried out by City Dressing, asked respondents what they missed most about not being able to visit the high street during lockdown, what they are most looking forward to when they return and what features they feel are most important in a post Covid-19 world.
The answer to the question “what changes do you want to see on your high street?” saw all respondents answering either that they wanted more planting and green spaces or more outdoor seating.
And in answer to the question “what have you missed most about not being able to visit the high street?’” the most popular responses all involved wanting to take part in sociable activities with friends – going to restaurants, cafes and the cinema.
More than two thirds say they have found an increased sense of community spirit and pride and appreciation of where they live since lockdown, with a similar number saying they will shop locally in future as they will feel safer doing so.
The survey concluded that community-focused activities in an attractive environment are more important than buying commodities.
“According to this data we have missed our friends more than the ability to shop. We have a greater affection for our local area and want to support local business more. We are very concerned about health and will spend less time in shops but more time outside. To cater for this we want a cleaner, greener outdoor environment with more outdoor seating,” it said.
The survey’s findings are nothing new to town clerks and Plantscape customers who have been filling their towns with its dazzling seven day watering displays over the years.
Horticultural development officer Rosie Biggs at North West Leicestershire District Council is filling Coalville with 70 hanging and barrier baskets and nearly three dozen dramatic flower towers this summer.
“The visual impact of flowers can lift the mood and have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Spending time outdoors in a greener environment can reduce stress levels and anxiety. We hope that by installing flower towers and flower beds within the town it is part of the recovery process, as we work together in supporting our community in these difficult times,” she said.
Featherstone town clerk Vicky Symons says the displays give residents a sense of pride in the town. “They make the community happier,” she said.
A study carried out by the University of Exeter Medical School showed that a weekly two hour ‘dose’ in nature – even just sitting on a bench - has a significant positive impact on mental and physical health.