I specialise in inclusive sports and getting inactive people active. Mortlake’s playing fields currently provide an environment for team sports in a structured way and should also be a place for activities that can take place in a more informal unstructured way with family and friends.
We know that green space is essential for people’s overall health and wellbeing. Replacing the sports fields with artificial pitches as part of the redevelopment plan is not the solution.
Artificial pitches may protect the “sports provision” requirement, but far more people are likely to engage in sport and physical activity in a natural green space than on an artificial pitch.
People are more likely to go for a walk in a pleasant environment than book a pitch to play football. Doing yoga on an artificial pitch is not the same as doing it in an open space. An artificial pitch will probably be fenced and require booking, reducing the opportunity for spontaneous physical activity that is so important to people being active.
The artificial pitch has a place but it will only really serve those who are already active. Green open space and creative design of the site will encourage those that are less active and mobile to engage in outdoor physical activity and provide an opportunity for informal social contact.
A few years ago the University of Exeter explored this topic and found that exercising in natural environments, particularly in green spaces, ‘was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression, and increased energy’. They also found that people who exercised outdoors claimed to enjoy it more, find it more satisfying and said they were more likely to do it again. Another advantage of exercising outdoors is that there is an increased chance of exposure to sunshine and therefore topping up on vitamin D.
The proposed redevelopment is going to increase the population density of the area, so I would argue the community needs more open green space not less.