Our latest spotlight shines on Glasgow City Council and looks at how they used evidence to show them where they needed to act in protecting parks and green spaces for the benefit of the city's residents.
Glasgow is Scotland's largest city by population with around 600,000 residents, a figure that is predicted to grow by a further 15% by 2037. Very few residents have access to outdoor space at home as 73% of dwellings in Glasgow are flats. So public access to parks and green spaces is a vital part of community provision, which impacts on physical health, mental wellbeing and the environment within the city.
When considering park and green space provision mapping a council's portfolio of land ownership is a key start point, but the location and characteristics of the communities who use parks and green spaces is also vital to understand. Exploring the data is essential to ensuring that the local community benefits from the most appropriate and equitable management of facilities.
In 2011 Glasgow City Council undertook a comprehensive review as part of its Open Space Strategy [PDF], part of an overarching City Development Plan. The strategy recognised that effectively designed open public space in urban areas has an important role in ensuring residents' quality of life.
The city's green spaces were categorised into a typology, mapped and analysed for the distribution of types of space across the city. Parks and green spaces were mapped against Fields in Trust's minimum benchmark standards as set out in our Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play. The analysis found that the distribution of open space is not uniform across Glasgow, with significant pockets across the city having limited access to open space. As might be expected, mapping shows that the provision of open space reduces moving from the urban fringe towards the city centre.
The review also highlights that there is less open space in the West, around Govan and Ibrox; in the Southside, in particular Pollokshields and Govanhill; and in the East End, around Carntyne. Armed with these insights and an analysis of the communities that live in these areas the Council undertook to protect 27 of its green spaces with Fields in Trust. Whilst it is difficult to add new parks in heavily populated areas, a first step is to ensure that what green space is there is protected from development. Glasgow City Council chose the location of spaces they protected strategically to ensure that parks were safeguarded in areas where the most vulnerable communities experienced the poorest health outcomes.
Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy of all Scottish cities - 3.7 years lower than Scotland as a whole for men and 2.4 years lower for women. Just 40% of Glaswegians achieve the recommended weekly levels of physical activity whilst just under a quarter (24%) of adults are classified as obese. "People make Glasgow" and open spaces are vital to ensure the health and well-being of future generations of Glaswegians. There is overwhelming evidence which shows people are more likely to be physically active where they have good access to green space close to home. Our Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces research identifies that regular park users can save the NHS £111 million each year solely in avoided GP appointments.
Social cohesion was also identified as a clear benefit to wellbeing in city's strategy, which aimed to make "places more beautiful, interesting and distinctive" giving a stronger sense of identity and improving community connections.
Glasgow City Council undertook to protect 27 of their green spaces through a Fields in Trust Minute of Agreement. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland this mechanism is called the Deed of Dedication. Minutes and Deeds are a robust, yet flexible, way of safeguarding the future of a space and are a legally binding document to ensure each space covered is protected for generations to come. Each individual space's protection is specified in its own legal agreement. More information on what Fields in Trust protection is and what it means is available in this article.
Not only did the multiple protections ensure local communities had somewhere to become active, they also created a public legacy from hosting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by securing spaces where aspiring athletes can get out and start their sporting journeys. Located across the city, at least one space is protected in 15 of the city's 21 wards.
Speaking at the launch of the protections of the 27 spaces, then Glasgow City Council leader, Councillor Frank McAveety, said: "It's widely acknowledged that having access to outdoor space and undertaking some level of activity has numerous mental and physical benefits for individuals and families. We were delighted to take part in this scheme to guarantee areas for people to use and enjoy now and in the future".
For Glasgow's leaders and city planners, the political decisions about the provision of green space were based on reliable data that indicated where parks were located across the city, the communities that used them and where the most significant impact on health, wellbeing and community cohesion could be delivered. Fields in Trust's recent Green Space Index has made available our own analysis of park and green space provision across Great Britain. This data and our research findings can help demonstrate where a strategic intervention to protect an identified area can have the most significant impact.
Through the protection of 27 parks and green spaces across the city, Glasgow City Council have created a lasting legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games as well as safeguarding the city's reputation as a "Dear Green Place".
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