Fields in Trust research finds 2.5 million people across Great Britain without a nearby park or green space
By Alison McCann, Policy Manager, Fields in Trust
- Over 2.5 million people across Great Britain live more than ten minutes’ walk from a public park or green space
- Average green space per person in GB is 35 square metres – about three car parking spaces
- Only 6% of local parks and green spaces legally protected from development
Green Space Index
New research from the charity Fields in Trust has identified that more than 2.5 million people across Great Britain live more than ten minutes-walk from their nearest park or green space. The Green Space Index, is a barometer of publicly accessible park and green space provision, which, for the first time, uses new Ordnance Survey data to comprehensively analyse provision across Great Britain.
The Green Space Index shows that although Britain has a total of 216,160 hectares of publicly accessible, local parks and green spaces (about one and a half times the size of London), less than 6% of this is legally protected with Fields in Trust – the charity which champions and supports our parks and green spaces by protecting them for people to enjoy in perpetuity. With public sector cuts leading to pressure on outdoor spaces, there is an increasing risk that a lack of legal protection could lead to more being sold off or built on.
The Green Space Index Score is Fields in Trust’s own unique measure of green space provision and simply indicates how close a region is to the recommended minimum provision of parks, play facilities and outdoor sport per 1,000 people. This is based on benchmark guidelines set out in Fields in Trust’s Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play publication. The Index finds that London, Yorkshire & the Humber and the North West and the North East all fall well below the minimum level, with the East Midlands providing exactly the minimum.
England as a whole falls just below the minimum provision but in contrast, Scotland tops the Green Space Index. It both provides more green-space per person than any other part of Great Britain (45.86 square metres per person) and has the most legally protected green space (2,143 hectares).
The average amount of green space per person in Great Britain is just over 35 square metres, less than half the size of a six-yard box on a football pitch - or around the space taken up by three parked cars.
At present Northern Ireland is not included in the analysis - Ordnance Survey's scope only extends to Great Britain. Northern Ireland is served by a separate mapping agency - Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland - who have not, as yet, produced any mapping of publicly accessible parks and green spaces. The Green Space Index is the first time that park and green space provision in Great Britain has been comprehensively analysed. Fields in Trust plan to update the Index on a regular basis, which will allow the charity to track changes in green space provision in the future.
Health and Wellbeing
The health and wellbeing benefits associated with living close to parks and green spaces are increasingly well documented. For example, Fields in Trust’s Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces research, found that the Wellbeing Value associated with the frequent use of local parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion per year to the entire UK adult population. In addition, these spaces are estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year based solely on a reduction in GP visits and excluding any additional savings from prescribing or referrals. A lack of provision within a ten-minute walk means people are more likely to be missing out on the benefits that these spaces provide.
Fields in Trust is concerned that a large number of people who don’t have a park or green space nearby could miss out on these benefits. There is an urgent need to secure and maintain the parks and green spaces we currently have. Local government and landowners are being encouraged to legally protect parks and green spaces they own – as any future loss will disproportionately impact disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.
Parks and green spaces are much-loved by people who use them regularly and increasingly, care for them through Friends groups and volunteer associations. It is widely understood by those who work in the sector, that parks provide many benefits to society. But our new Green Space Index shows, for the first time, that there is insufficient access to parks and green spaces and that far too few are legally protected, leaving those unprotected vulnerable to loss or development.
It is concerning that millions of people across the country find themselves with not a single park or green space within a ten-minute walk. It is also worrying that many regions across the country are failing to meet even basic standards of provision.
Overall these findings show that there is an urgent need to ensure the current level of park and green space provision is maintained and review what more can be done to legally protect them for future generations to enjoy.