Heathrow Expansion 'Poses Risk To Mental Health'

Doctor claims Richmond Park could no longer be used for 'nature prescriptions'

image: RoyalParks.org.uk

Heathrow expansion risks ruining Richmond Park as a place for Londoners to escape the city, risking their mental health, according to a psychologist.

Proposed new flight paths would mean, for the first time, 47 low-flying arrivals an hour as well as between 17 and 47 more departures an hour being routed directly over the park.

And mental health specialist Dr Alison Greenwood said this could seriously damage people’s well-being. Dr Greenwood, who encourages people to treat themselves with “nature prescriptions”, said: “I regularly walk or sit in Richmond Park with people suffering from all kinds of mental distress, and I see first-hand the powerful healing qualities of being in such a magnificent natural setting, with clients visibly relaxing, smiling, and expressing a sense of freedom, release, connection, optimism and meaning.

“And when I ask my clients to describe what it is they most appreciate about spending time in the park, adjectives such as ‘tranquil’, ‘quiet’, and ‘peaceful’ are among the most frequently used.”

Richmond Park is London’s largest park, a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is visited by 5.5 million people a year from London and beyond. And the government’s own “25 Year Environment Plan” states: “Spending time in the natural environment – as a resident or visitor – improves our mental health and feelings of well-being. It can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression.”

Dr Greenwood said this makes the plans seem “irrational”, and argued her point in an article written for Friends of Richmond Park (FRP). She wrote: “Natural spaces are a precious resource in addressing our current mental health crisis; noise pollution has a significant negative impact on our mental health; and noise pollution that destroys the restorative properties of our natural spaces is clearly damaging on both fronts.”

FRP chairman Ron Crompton said: “Dr Greenwood’s article clearly demonstrates how devastating the noise generated by low flight arrivals directly over Richmond Park will be, particularly for mental health and well-being. Millions of visitors come from all over London and beyond to appreciate the Park’s rich biodiversity and tranquillity and this will be shattered by the new flight paths proposal.”

The current consultation on Heathrow expansion plans will end on September 13. Friends of Richmond Park plan to submit an article written by Dr Greenwood as evidence.

Calum Rutter - Local Democracy Reporter

June 21, 2019