England’s not so green and pleasant land: millions can only access green space size of garden shed

New research shows 1 in 5 people in England struggle to access quality green space
  Published:  16 Sep 2020    |      3 minute read
  • Friends of the Earth identifies the 1,257 neighbourhoods that are most green space deprived in England, with 1 in 5 people struggling to access green space. View list here and map here.
  • 42% of England’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities live in the most green-space deprived neighbourhoods
  • Environmental group calls on government to commit to investing £4bn a year to boost green space in the most deprived neighbourhoods as part of a Green and Fair Covid-19 Recovery Plan

New research from Friends of the Earth supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery shows 1 in 5 people in England struggle to access quality green space - be it private gardens, public parks or open fields.

The government’s latest plan to boost the economy is a massive missed opportunity to deliver a green and fair recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The report ranks neighbourhoods from A (the best access to green space) to E (the least access to green space). Almost 11 million people live in E rated neighbourhoods with an additional 7.7 million in D rated neighbourhoods. List of E rated neighbourhoods by local authority is available here or in map form here.

Bringing together official data on the availability of green space to communities for the very first time, the research shows that millions of us lack basic access to green space and nature, with income and ethnicity being huge factors.

The findings further demonstrate that people from BAME communities are disproportionately impacted by a worsening environment - often living with dire air pollution, little in the way of green spaces, and greater risk from the impacts of extreme weather.

Friends of the Earth nature campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said:

“For many of us lockdown exposed how critical quality outdoor space and nature is for our health and wellbeing. But our research shows just how much of a distant reality that is for millions of people across England who live in nature-deprived neighbourhoods. Everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment. Greener neighbourhoods, well insulated homes and high-quality cycling routes are some of the key parts of this.

“The forthcoming spending review is an opportunity to make people happier and healthier, improve equality, and help fix the climate crisis. This would be a triple win for government investment."

Laura Chow, head of charities at People's Postcode Lottery (whose players have helped fund this research), said:

“The findings from this research are significant. We are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of access to green space for our mental and physical wellbeing, and it’s vital that no groups are excluded. Players of People’s Postcode Lottery play an important role in funding local projects that help to achieve this, but this shows that even more needs to be done.”

Read the full report England’s Green Space Gap here (click here for a summary version).

Notes to editors

  1. Full dataset available here.
  2. To carry out the analysis and identify the neighbourhoods in most in need of investment Friends of the Earth combined official digital maps on parks, gardens and open access land (such as mountains, health land and common land), as well as official data on income and ethnicity by neighbourhood.
  3. Neighbourhoods were rated from A to E. E rated neighbourhoods have less than 9 square metres of public green space per capita in the area, very little garden space, and larger amounts of green space are more than 5 minutes’ walk away for at least three-quarters of residents.
  4. Friends of the Earth says government must prioritise investment in these neighbourhoods if it’s serious about its commitments to improving the nation’s health and tackling the climate crisis and social inequalities hampering communities up and down the country. An investment of around £4bn per year could make a radical difference to the lives of millions. The government's most immediate opportunity to address funding is coming up in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), where Friends of the Earth is also calling for investment in areas such as green jobs, cycling and walking infrastructure and home insulation.
  5. Friends of the Earth’s nature campaign is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery
  6. In addition to spending on green space, Friends of the Earth and others are demanding that the Spending Review expected in the autumn commits to billions of pounds for home energy efficiency and eco-heating, cycling, public transport, and other measures to address the climate emergency.