New research reveals positive nature of Connswater Greenway

EastSide Greenways, the team responsible for managing the Connswater Community Greenway at EastSide Partnership in Belfast, recently conducted a survey to determine how the open and green spaces of the Greenway have had a positive impact during lockdown.

Grace Bannister Bridge. Pic by EastSide Greenways
Grace Bannister Bridge. Pic by EastSide Greenways

The Connswater Community Greenway has remained open throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and has proved to be a vital resource for local communities, encouraging safe connectivity and positive health and well-being.

An online survey was conducted from May 4-14, during the height of the lockdown, with 275 people responding. Over 90% of people were from the local east Belfast postcode area.

Key findings from the survey include: 20% increase in daily usage with growing numbers of people who have never used the Greenway; 45% revealed they have become more active since lockdown began; 95% believe that parks and open spaces should remain open during lockdown. A small percentage of people stopped visiting due to anxiety around social distancing.

Heron at Victoria Park. Pic by James King

In addition, a recently published paper ‘Social Return on Investment analysis of an Urban Greenway’ by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) revealed the Connswater Community Greenway to be a worthwhile economic investment. Part of an 8 year Physical Activity and Rejuvenation of the Connswater (PARC) study, the paper revealed that for every £1 invested there is an expected return of £2 - £6, over the lifetime of the Greenway. It further revealed that the multi-functional nature of the space had a wider, positive impact on areas such as tourism, climate change, health and employment.

Michele Bryans, EastSide Greenways Manager, said: “At EastSide Greenways, as part of our ongoing work with Connswater Community Greenway, we continue to observe the positive impact connecting people to nature has in building healthier, resilient and safer communities. Our recent survey has revealed that having access to open and green spaces encourages social connectivity, positive health and well-being. To ensure everyone can continue to enjoy the Greenway safely and responsibly, we have been working alongside our partners at Belfast City Council to ensure that we manage and follow appropriate social distancing guidelines.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at QUB for carrying out vital research which demonstrates the positive impact that green infrastructure and physical regeneration projects can have in a city.”

Dr. Ruth Hunter, Centre for Public Health, Queens University Belfast, commented: “This is one of the first studies to conduct a social return on investment of a new urban greenway.

A knitted rainbow on Connswater Community Greenway. Pic by EastSide Greenways

“Our recent study provides evidence supporting the role of green space as a vital health and well-being intervention however it also highlights other significant benefits such as social, economic and environmental impact and the positive difference it makes to a society.”

Kids at Orangefield Park. Pic by Claire Dobbin