For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic exposed how important good quality outdoor space is for our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Green spaces make us happier and healthier. They help reduce heart disease, obesity, and depression and save the NHS more than £100 million each year in GP visits and prescriptions. They also perform other valuable functions such as reducing flooding, cutting carbon emissions, and protecting nature.
Despite all of these benefits, almost 10 million people in England live in areas with very limited access to green space. Are you one of the unlucky ones? Find your neighbourhood by exploring the map or entering your postcode in the field below.
Who fares the worst?
We’ve analysed data from the Office of National Statistics on gardens, together with data on public green space, to identify neighbourhoods that lack both public green space and gardens. We found that:
- 1,108 neighbourhoods in the UK – home to 9.6 million people – are deprived of green space. That's roughly 1 in 5 of us.
- Black and brown people are twice as likely to live in a neighbourhood with minimal access to green space. Almost 40% of people from BAME backgrounds live in the most green-space deprived areas, compared to just 14% of white people.
- The average amount of public green space for people in the most deprived green space neighbourhoods is less than 9m2, or the average size of a garden shed.
- Children from the most deprived areas are 20% less likely to spend time outside than those in affluent areas.
The numbers in many urban areas are also worrying. Slough, Wolverhampton and Southend-on-Sea have less than 12m2 of green space on average per capita. And areas of London occupy the 10 worst authorities for access to green space, with the Borough of Islington coming last at an average of 2m2 of green space per capita.
What government must do
The lack of green space in many neighbourhoods across the UK is a problem for health and wellbeing, climate adaptation, and biodiversity. Spaces where nature should be thriving are under threat from construction, and government plans to spend £25 billion on new roads will serve only to make matters worse.
We need stronger policies and significant investment in good quality green infrastructure.
The government's most immediate opportunity to address funding is coming up in its November Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), where we're also calling for investment in green jobs, cycling and walking infrastructure, and home insulation.
Our analysis is not without weaknesses. We've used the ONS definition of "what is public green space", which doesn't capture all green spaces where there may be public access, such as allotments.
The dataset doesn't include wildlife sites, some of which may be open to the public, nor does it include beaches. The data also don't capture the quality of the green space, which is a major issue for people and wildlife.
We've made the full data set freely available (see below) and would welcome others using it to test alternative analytical approaches.
Bring nature to your door
With your support, we'll help community groups create and save green spaces for those who need it most. We're also working with local communities to turn drab high streets and road-sides into wildlife-rich areas with fruit trees, hedges, and bee-friendly flowers.
We'll continue to call on the UK government to make a firm commitment to doubling tree cover and demand bold action on nature from local and devolved governments.
Let’s make our voices heard and ensure green spaces are accessible to all.