There are over 27,000 urban greenspaces in the UK, with more than half the UK population regularly making use of them. The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited the wider debate over public and private greenspace, yet they remain an area underfunded and often in need of innovation and development.
A recent landmark report has been commissioned by Friends of the Earth. The report exposes how widespread green space deprivation is, how it is an issue of racial injustice as well as concern from a public health perspective, and what needs to be done to fix the problem. It also showcases great examples of community led initiatives.
Friends of the Earth has for the first time mapped the availability of green space for people living in communities across England. This has been achieved by bringing together data on public green space, garden space, and open access land such as mountain, moor, heath, down or common land, and combining it with neighbourhood population data, including information on ethnicity and income.
Their analysis reveals a marked disparity in access to green space and particularly a strong correlation between green space deprivation and ethnicity.
The stand-out finding is that if you are a person of black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) origin you are more than twice as likely as a white person to live in areas in England that are most deprived of green space. 42% of people of BAME backgrounds live in England’s most green space-deprived neighbourhoods, compared to 20% of white people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed existing inequalities, including those covered in the report. These have already been well documented, for example in the ground-breaking Marmot Review of health inequalities in England, and more recent work by The King’s Fund.
Shortly before the pandemic, Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke about the need to address inequalities:
“Tackling this postcode inequality matters to this government. It’s what we mean when we talk about ‘levelling up’. The underlying factors are a complex interaction between demography and economy. But because healthcare inequalities are geographically concentrated, it means we can take a targeted approach.”
Friends of the Earth say they have produced this report to:
- Make the case for proper and sustained funding to raise both the quantity and quality of green space, especially in areas that lack it, so that the undoubted benefits flow to everyone.
- Provide data and evidence to empower the many local champions of green spaces across England.
- Influence the development and application of new green space standards by Natural England and others.
- Propose how protection and provision of green space would aid numerous central and local governmental aims, from health and community to land use and environment.
- Showcase examples of innovative approaches and good practice to illustrate the potential for action and to inspire change.
The report makes for eye-opening reading. I recommend visiting their main website to access and use the map they produced or download the full report (PDF) - which you can do here.