The COVID-19 lockdown has highlighted a lack of open spaces in housing developments in Wales, industry planners have said.
Following many people’s struggle to access green areas, during a time when they were supposed to stay at home for all but essential trips, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Cymru has said that attention has now been drawn to the lack of accessible outside space in many housing developments in Wales.
“Perhaps the pandemic has highlighted what people need from places,” said director Dr Roisin Willmott, speaking to BBC Radio Cymru’s Post Cyntaf programme.
“If you’re in lockdown, it’s very difficult if you’re in a very small cramped housing unit with no outdoor space at all.”
Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), said the industry would provide what customers want to buy.
“One of the key priorities when developing high-density dwellings in urban areas is the creation of outdoor space for residents to enjoy, whether that is the proximity of a park or a balcony that creates outside space,” he said.
For Daniel Griffiths, who lives in a Cardiff flat with his girlfriend, lockdown has been “frustrating”.
“There are no balconies on the actual block of flats whatsoever, even on the first floor where I am, or on the second floor,” he said.
“And there’s not even really a little area outside on the bottom floor, as well.”
“Through the lockdown, it was quite frustrating that I couldn’t go out whenever I want to a personal space like a balcony or an outdoor personal space.
“Something like that would have made a massive difference…It just felt like we were stuck inside.”
Health benefits of open spaces
Jen Heal, from the Design Commission for Wales agency, which champions better buildings and spaces, said outside spaces provide health benefits.
“There were issues around the way we design houses, but also the way we design neighbourhoods and to make sure that they work for both physical and mental health and wellbeing,” she said.
“I think the importance of having a space to use that allows you to go outside and spend some time outside has been really highlighted through this time.
“So the provision of a balcony, terrace or at least some sort of shared green space is important, and we don’t provide balconies routinely and at the moment.
“And that I think is something that needs to be reconsidered, and it’s being reconsidered by some.”