The London Health Board declines consideration of a low-cost mental health care suggestion from Londoners

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Bexley residents approached the London Health Board, chaired by Mayor Boris Johnson, raising the importance of green space in mental health care and requesting a guidance statement to London councils, but in an email response the request for consideration at the Board's October meeting was declined. The urgency of the residents' request was due to an impending decision by Bexley council to sell green space due to a large funding gap, which includes a well-used local park and where the group argues that this decision will have a significant detrimental impact on the community.

Access to green space reduces anxiety and stress, reduces the symptoms of depression, increases mental wellbeing, and improves physical health

The London Health Board, chaired by Mayor Boris Johnson, was offered the opportunity to consider a low-cost suggestion that would support the mental health and physical wellbeing of Londoners. A group of residents from the London Borough of Bexley approached the Board with the opportunity to consider their suggestion at the Board’s quarterly meeting in October. In an email responding to the request for consideration, the Board’s Secretariat Manager stated that he “did not consider it appropriate to bring to the Board” (copy available here:

At the inaugural meeting of the Board in March, the Board laid out its five areas of focus with mental health being considered as a primary objective. The Board also states that it supports the Better Health for London initiative whose ambitions include “Get London fitter with better food, more exercise and healthier living” and “Care for the most mentally ill in London so they live longer, healthier lives”.

The residents group wrote to the Board providing a compelling case on how the provision of green space can boost mental well-being, immediately reduce anxiety levels, and increase physical fitness. With NHS resources and finances in the capital already severely stretched, the residents believed that this would be a subject the Board would take interest in as, over the medium to long term, supporting the intent of their letter could have significant benefits.

The letter was backed up with a considerable number of scientific studies that proved the claimed benefits. The residents' concern has been driven by Bexley Council’s proposals to dispose of green space in the borough; including several acres of a well-used park. With the sale decision possibly being taken as early as November, the group hoped that the Board may be able to provide guidance to the council from a health perspective. A full copy of the letter is available here: Whilst the letter was in the context of the local issue, the same proposals have been considered throughout London by other councils with potentially disastrous long-term consequences. In 2012, a BBC Freedom of Information (FOI) request found that 120 acres (50 hectres) or park, playgrounds and pitches had been sold off by London councils in the prior 3 years with Bexley Council selling the largest space at 80,000 sq. m (860,000 sq. ft).

“We understand that the Board may not be able to take a political or local stance about Sidcup’s issue, but we hoped they could have thought broadly about how these types of green-space sell-offs are affecting residents throughout London, and issued guidance or direction to all London councils.” one Sidcup resident commented.

The residents group have formed the Save Old Farm Park campaign, and over the past few months have campaigned hard to protect the park from sale and development. In the recent public consultation run by Conservative-led Bexley Council, nearly 100% of the 1,362 responses objected to the proposal to dispose of green space in the London borough, including an open response from the Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, James Brokenshire [read James Brokenshire's letter here: .

ABOUT THE LONDON HEALTH BOARD: The London Health Board was established in May 2013 before refocussing in 2015. Membership includes the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, three leaders of London local authorities, and three senior representatives from the Health Sector in the capital. The Board's web site is available here:

ABOUT THE BEXLEY RESIDENTS GROUP: The group, the Save Old Farm Park campaign, was formed in 2015 to champion against Bexley council’s proposed sell-off and redevelopment of green spaces, in particular Old Farm Park in Sidcup. The group believes that unequivocal evidence supports the fact that access to green space reduces anxiety and stress, reduces the symptoms of depression (including chronic depression), increases mental wellbeing, improves physical health, and so provides far-reaching, long-lasting mental, physical and spiritual benefits.

Posted 14 October by the Save Old Farm Park Campaign. Original release available here:
BBC FOI report available here:
More info on this release from: saveoldfarmpark1(at)

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