Fields in Trust

Unveiling Green Space Insights, a study of six locations and their green spaces

Posted in Research & Insight on 25th October 2023

Our new collection of case studies ‘Green Space Insights’ captures some of Field In Trust's collaborations with councils and local communities to protect our green spaces for good.

The UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted places. From our annual Green Space Index, we know that in the next decade, 4,000 new green spaces need to be created just to maintain current levels of provision. This is why Fields in Trust is working up and down the UK to protect, support, and champion the green spaces that make us happier and healthier, allow nature to thrive, and help mitigate climate change.

Our new collection of case studies ‘Green Space Insights’ captures the impact of population changes, planning decisions, and other factors affecting green spaces in six locations across the nation. We delve into some of our collaborations with councils and local communities to protect our green spaces for good - and what we may be at risk of losing without this protection in place. Read some of the snippets from Islington, Edinburgh, and North Norfolk below.

A unique solution to overcrowded parks

Every village, town, and city, has its own green space story to tell. In the London Borough of Islington, this is one of overcrowded parks. But with a unique solution.

The amount of park and green space provision per person plays a big part in how beneficial it is, both to the community and to the health of the park itself.

If you’re sharing your green space with more people, this will likely impact the quality of the space, how you feel when you’re there, and what you’re able to do.

In Islington, 252,000 people share just 69 hectares of green space – with as little as 2.75 square metres per person (compared to the national average of 30 square metres per person). This isn’t just an ‘Islington’ issue. 24% of people in England and Wales use parks that are potentially overcrowded with four square metres of green space per person.

So, what is Islington doing to improve green space access for its residents?

When you have such a densely packed area, it is vital that parks and green spaces are of the highest quality and are protected from development, so that the precious space left is safeguarded.

Islington Council has signed a deed of dedication with Fields in Trust, resulting in 19 of their green spaces, equivalent to 15% being protected.

Almost all residents in the Borough live within a ten-minute walk of a protected green space thanks to the partnership between the Council and Fields in Trust.

The Council is also getting local communities involved in submitting ideas for greening projects in their neighbourhood through their ‘Islington Greener Together’ project – encouraging ideas such as parklets, pocket parks, and rainwater gardens.

Securing the future of green spaces, forever

Two-thirds of Edinburgh’s residents live in flats, with 1 in 7 people having no access to a private or communal garden. This makes having access to a park or green space immensely important for the health and wellbeing of the local community.

Recognising the value of green space and the needs of local people, the Council partnered with Fields in Trust to legally protect 55 parks in the city by 2023.

This monumental commitment has ensured that 84% of residents have access to a park or green space within ten minutes of home.

The collaboration between Fields in Trust and Edinburgh City Council led to a series of case studies ‘Memories are made in our parks’, amplifying residents’ stories of the memories and significance that the city’s parks hold for them, and why these areas being permanently protected is so important.

Working together with Fields in Trust, Edinburgh has invested in the long-term future of green spaces and residents will continue to reap the benefits of this for generations to come.

But what happens when protection isn’t in place?

Walking around North Norfolk, you wouldn’t feel like there is any pressure on green space. The area enjoys the highest provision of park and green space per person of any local authority in the UK, at 184 sqm per person.

But this won’t always be the case. Our research shows that green space per person will fall by 9% in the next two decades in North Norfolk due to population growth in the region, without protection being in place.

In our Green Space Insights case study, we are able to illustrate urban sprawl across specific areas between 1942 - 2019, alongside the likelihood of this green space being eaten up by development in the 77 intervening years without Fields in Trust’s legal protection.

To address these emerging issues, in January 2022, the local district council published its draft Local Plan. This sets out the increased role of parks and green space in delivering a holistic approach to a range of issues, such as climate change, health and wellbeing, biodiversity, and local economies.

For North Norfolk, and many other areas across the UK, a key challenge of future planning is to enable growth to provide sufficient housing and jobs whilst maintaining the benefits from conserving and enhancing the landscape and environment.

Clear steps and consideration for parks and green spaces signal the value placed on ensuring North Norfolk stays green, and that current levels of high provision will remain as the population increases.