People in Harrow will be encouraged to reconnect with nature as part of the council’s recovery plan from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Carole Furlong, director of public health at Harrow Council, revealed plans to promote the borough’s green spaces as part of its latest annual public health report at a health and wellbeing board meeting yesterday (Tuesday, June 8).

She outlined the positive impact making use of these spaces can have on people’s mental health and physical fitness, particularly in light of the past year, when coronavirus has dominated daily life.

“It’s been a tough year when we have been consumed with all things Covid,” she explained.

“Lots of people have become more aware of their surroundings and have been interacting with nature – we hope to see this continue.

“The aesthetic experience of green spaces can have a positive effect on psychological wellbeing and evoke positive emotions.

“We need to have conversations with residents about how they can use green spaces more.”

She added they can act as a “glue” and can foster a “sense of community”, particularly through the creation of friends’ groups to manage these areas.

It comes as data showed more than half (54.8 per cent) of adults and more than a third (36.5 per cent) of Year 6 children in Harrow are overweight or obese.

Furthermore, around a quarter (24.6 per cent) of adults and 35 per cent of children and young people in the borough get 30 minutes of physical activity a week, while just a third of adults regularly walk to work and only one in 100 adults cycle.

Ms Furlong said there needs to be a clear effort to change these figures, with plans – including prominent new signs – to show residents where their nearest green spaces are and how they can modify their lives to make the most of them.

She added this will include collaboration with the council’s planning department to ensure there is no unnecessary loss of green space.

The proposals were backed by councillors – Cllr Janet Mote (Con, Headstone North) agreed people are “unaware what’s on their doorstep” and encouraged the planting of wildflowers on grass verges, as practised in neighbouring Hillingdon, as it can have “such a lifting feeling”.

Cllr Krishna Suresh (Lab, Rayners Lane), who is responsible for equalities and public health at Harrow Council, also believes the strategy will have a positive effect and noted it could “encourage visitors” to the borough.