Fields in Trust

PROVISION: Compiling the Green Space Index

Posted on 27th May 2019
In our latest staff blog our Digital & Campaigns Officer reflects on compiling the Green Space Index and looks ahead to its future.

As our 'Summer of Parks' gets underway this week we are discussing provision of parks, following the launch of our Green Space Index. In our latest staff blog our Digital & Campaigns Officer reflects on compiling the Index and looks ahead to its future.

We are a green and pleasant land, from the garden of England to the Highlands of Scotland. But just how much publicly available local park and green space provision is there across Great Britain? Previously it's been very difficult to put a figure on this. Now for the first time though, our Green Space Index is helping us to quantify our nation's park provision.

It tells us that there are 2.6 million of us who don't live within a ten-minute walk of a park or green space and that across Britain there is around 35 square metres of publicly accessible park and green space provision per person - less than half the size of a six-yard box on a football pitch.

That's the overall picture, but let's talk about our own local parks for a minute. Take a moment to consider green spaces near to you. Where would you go if you wanted to sit in the sun with a picnic, have a kick-about with a football, or take the kids to the swings? That's the essence of what our Green Space Index is all about. I'm very lucky to live in quite a green part of the world in the west of Hertfordshire. Within five-minutes' walk or so I can be out into the countryside with clean air and beautiful vistas to enjoy.

Whilst that's fantastic, and I cherish having it on my doorstep, I wouldn't think of this space for my picnic or that kick-about, and there's no swings or slide present (without making one naturally that is!). If I want any of these things there's only a small handful of spaces within a short walk which spring to mind. During the day, once I've commuted into London, the situation is even more acute. There's no rolling countryside just a short stroll away and if I want any green space at all to escape to over a lunch break there's only one or two parks realistically available to me - and good luck finding some free blades of grass to relax on of a hot summer's day!

That's why the Green Space Index is important and why we have put it together. We're really excited about what this mapping and analysis of local park and green space provision can tell us, how it can contribute to the wider policy discussion and how it can contribute to our own evidence-led approach to protecting parks and green spaces.

Whilst the Index has allowed us, for the first time, to quantify the overall area of publicly accessible park and green space provision across the country (around 216,000 ha.), the really interesting figures for me come in the other indices which offer different ways of considering provision. Take London for example, where just 10,579 people don’t have a park within a ten-minute walk of where they live compared to just under 2.6 million across Britain. On the flip side, however, Londoners have just 20.98 square metres of provision per person, which is almost half the national average. The capital also falls well short of a minimum standard as measured by our GSI Score.

Journey on my commute home out into Hertfordshire in the East of England, however, and we find more than double the level of provision per person - nearly 43 square metres - as well as greater than minimum standard of provision according to our GSI Score. Compared to the mere 10,579 in London, however, there are 314,562 people in the region without one of these spaces within a ten-minute walk.

Those are a selection of the headline figures and as part of the Green Space Index you can find the numbers for each of Britain's regions and nations as well as explore the situation near you using our interactive maps.

How have we put the Green Space Index together, I hear you ask? Great question! Around a year ago Ordnance Survey published the first national green space map. The data is open, meaning anyone can download it and work with it free of charge, and if you don’t have some fancy GIS (geographic information system) software then OS have made it available for anyone to explore online.

A year on from the launch we felt the time was right to compile the Index and have analysed the OS data (with some tweaks to make it relevant to our scope of publicly accessible park and green spaces) alongside other data from the ONS and elsewhere. I could use this blog to go into the exact methodology of how we've calculated each measure, but between us that can get a tad boring, so I'll just pop in a link to the technical notes which goes through things in detail in case you'd like to find out more! If you're looking for a more accessible explanation of how to explore the Green Space Index including what each of the indices means, then the frequently asked questions are for you.

We are grateful for the support of Esri UK who are the makers of the professional GIS software we have used to put the Green Space Index together. I attended their annual conference just last week and the theme was "Inspiring what's next". So what is next? Because this is just the start for the Index.

As I mentioned earlier, it's always been difficult to put exact figures on the level of park and green space provision across the nation, because the data just hasn't been there. This first release of the Green Space Index establishes that baseline which we'll be able to use going forwards to measure provision. In time we hope that the Index will help us to begin tracking trends in provision and analyse where green space is being lost. Because once green space is lost, it is lost forever.

More immediately, over the course of our 'Summer of Parks' and beyond we'll be publishing a number of more detailed Green Space Analyses. These documents will take a deeper look at green space provision in selected counties across Britain, starting in Merseyside. If the county you live or work in isn't covered then I'd still encourage you to have a look at the others when they are published, as they will contain insights that will still be of relevance and interest to your situation locally.

We'll also be using the data to contribute towards our evidence-led approach to protecting parks and green spaces for good. Whilst we already protect 12,348.31 ha. of green space across the country, from the Green Space Index we know this equates to just 6% of the overall provision, meaning there is so much more we need to do to ensure many more people have a legally protected park or green space near them. The Green Space Index helps show where we need to act as well as to change the conversation and better make the case for our parks and for why protection is needed.

That's the Green Space Index, how we got there and where we're heading then. This week our 'Summer of Parks' is discussing the topic of provision of parks and green spaces, so keep an eye out throughout the week and join in with the discussion. In the mean time do take a look at the interactive maps and discover the Index near you.

And once you've explored the map why not get out there and explore the spaces in person - that's where you'll find me this summer!