National Pride’s planned development in East Ayrshire, The Barony
Wellness should be at the core of social housing and community developments, says IRENE BISSET
It is now well understood that exposure to nature improves mental health, and time outdoors can lower blood pressure and stress levels as well as improving mood and alleviating depression. Yet all too often, when it comes to new developments, green spaces are a secondary consideration.
The pandemic has magnified the need for change and heightened awareness for physical and mental health and wellness, and many people have woken up to the benefits of the great outdoors. The importance of biodiversity to save our planet is also in focus, and the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow is our opportunity to promote good sustainable housing, access to open spaces and tackle climate change together.
We must make ready access to green spaces for communities in their local area, particularly biodiverse green spaces. Those who rely on public transport are disproportionately disadvantaged not just in economic wealth but good health. Meanwhile, high density housing estates continue to be built with minimal consideration given to open spaces for healthy living and wellness.
These were the key drivers that led National Pride, a community interest company, to focus on sustainable developments repurposing redundant buildings and land. Over the past three years, the team has developed a business model that facilitates commercially viable community developments, creates social value economic hubs to create local wealth in deprived areas.
Speaking at the Scotland Development Conference (22 October), I outlined how our drivers are community social impact, improved local wealth, enhanced biodiversity created through economically sustainable projects. National Pride seeks a small profit reinvesting any excess into further projects and help sustain the projects we created through investing into the local community.
We have two sites in Scotland spanning over 1,000 acres combined, both former coalfields, now under development. Both sites will be regenerated and sensitively transformed into eco-therapy wellness parks that will be accessible and affordable to all.
These biodiverse parks, based in East Ayrshire and Fife, will be completed by 2023 should planning permission be received, and will involve activities outside in nature as well as spa and other indoor facilities to practice wellness, with physical and mental health as an actively pursued lifestyle. Guests can be referred by the NHS or by private medical insurers or they can self-refer or book independently.
These are ‘hybrid developments’ not wholly medical facilities nor leisure activity parks but a combination as beautiful, tranquil, restful, places of quality mindful time, with outdoor space for exercise and relaxation opportunities.
‘It is possible to have a strong business model as a developer while being socially inclusive and environmentally beneficial’
The structures on site will be lightweight and environmentally friendly, lightly touching the ground to enable the enhancement and diversity of in flora, fauna and invertebrates.
The sites will be powered by renewable energy sources to create a carbon zero plus development demonstrating the passage from old to new energy production technology. Our projects will offer educational centres to encourage interest in the technological possibilities of practical ways to tackle climate change.
Our developments will be economic hubs, creating hundreds of jobs on site and in a minimum 10 miles radius throughout the local supply chain. These sites are for the economic and social benefit of the local communities that surround them. By creating local wealth, we create local social and economic value through inward investment.
Those considered to be vulnerable persons will be given priority training and employment opportunities so no one is excluded or marginalised.
National Pride will demonstrate that it is possible to have a strong business model as a developer while being socially inclusive and environmentally beneficial.
We believe and will demonstrate to all that wellness facilities through biodiverse green spaces must be at the core of all new social housing and community developments in Scotland, and we will lead change in the sector.
Irene Bisset is chairman of National Pride
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