Across Britain, 2.78 million people live further than a ten-minute walk from their nearest park or green space. That's the finding of the latest Green Space Index which reveals that, despite their vital role in the nation's wellbeing during lockdown, our much loved local parks are not equally accessible to all.
The Green Space Index was launched by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at an event at Starbank Park in Edinburgh. The visit came ahead of COP26, which will be taking place in Glasgow later this year, with today's event one of a number of projects with a positive effect on climate change that The Duke and Duchess have visited across Scotland. Urban parks and green spaces boost air quality, support habitats and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Their Royal Highnesses also met Duke of Edinburgh Award participants, who regularly volunteer with the Friends of Starbank Park and recognised the enormous legacy of the Duke who was formerly President of Fields in Trust.
Today's event also saw, Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Frank Ross, unveil a new commitment by The City of Edinburgh Council which will ensure almost everyone in the city lives no more than a ten-minute walk from a green space which is legally protected for good.
The Green Space Index is Fields in Trust's annual barometer of publicly accessible local park and green space provision. First launched in 2019, this third release once again highlights the inequities in provision across Britain. Despite their value for health, wellbeing, community and environment, some parts of Britain have access to half the green space as others - Scots enjoy 38.18 sqm of provision per person whilst for residents in London the figure falls to just 19.53 sqm.
Seven of the nine English regions do not meet a minimum standard of green space provision as measured by the GSI Score, and whilst both Scotland and Wales do meet this minimum standard their scores have both fallen over the last twelve months. Areas with the least provision tend to be those with a higher incidence of deprivation - precisely the communities who benefit most from green space access.
of total green space provision in Great Britain
of green space provision per person in Great Britain
not living within a ten-minute walk of a green space
of green space provision in Great Britain legally protected
Earlier today at Edinburgh's Starbank Park the findings of the Index were reviewed by Fields in Trust President, HRH The Duke of Cambridge who was visiting the park alongside HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as part of their tour of Scotland. The Duke and Duchess met volunteers from the Friends of Starbank Park and local residents of all ages for whom the park was a sanctuary during the coronavirus lockdowns as a place to play, exercise, relax and reflect.
Discover the Green Space Index findings near you using our interactive online map covering the whole of Great Britain.
Explore the map
Starbank Park is one of 34 already protected with Fields in Trust by The City of Edinburgh Council and today's announcement by the Lord Provost means that figure is set to grow. The Council will protect a further 25 green spaces, serving communities who do not already have a protected space close to home, to ensure almost everyone in the city lives no more than a ten-minute walk from a park or green space which is protected for good.
Speaking at today's event, Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said: "Edinburgh is already a wonderfully green city, and we want to ensure it remains that way for generations to come.
"I'm extremely pleased to announce that the City of Edinburgh Council will be looking to partner with Fields in Trust in protecting in perpetuity a further 25 green spaces - adding to the 34 already protected. This will mean that almost everyone in Edinburgh will be within a ten-minute walk of a protected green space, ensuring that for years to come citizens are guaranteed a lifetime of opportunity for activity, play, learning, recuperation and community.
"Scores of volunteers across the city work alongside the Council to support our parks, green spaces and cemeteries. We are very grateful to Friends of Starbank Park their ongoing hard work and dedication and we will continue to work with them to make sure these important areas are preserved for the benefit of our future generations."
The City of Edinburgh Council will protect a further 25 green spaces for good - taking their total to 59 local parks - to ensure nearly all the city's residents live no more than a ten-minute walk from a protected green space.
In taking this commitment The City of Edinburgh Council become the first local authority in Scotland to adopt such a bold vision for their green spaces and follow in the footsteps of Liverpool City Council. Earlier this year a pioneering commitment to protect all Liverpool's parks - 100 green spaces covering over 1,000 hectares - for good with Fields in Trust was revealed.
Once Liverpool City Council's vision is achieved, nobody in the city will live more than a ten-minute walk from a legally protected park or green space. The commitment is fully supported by newly elected Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr. Joanne Anderson, who was joined by the candidates from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Liberal Party in taking Fields in Trust's Parks Protector Pledge as part of the recent Mayoral election campaign, demonstrating the non-partisan nature of local parks. Mayor Anderson is one of 64 elected policymakers across the UK to have taken the Pledge, including 13 Members of the Scottish Parliament.
"We know the value of our parks and their contribution to so many of the key issues we are determined to tackle in Liverpool and that is why we are working with Fields in Trust to protect their future. I urge other civic leaders to follow our example and protect green spaces for good."
Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson
The pioneering commitments from both Liverpool City Council and The City of Edinburgh Council are examples of how an evidence-led approach can ensure protection of parks and green spaces where they will have the greatest impact for local communities, as well as ensuring the positive health, wellbeing community and environmental benefits that local parks provide are secured forever.
Reflecting on the latest Green Space Index findings and partnership with The City of Edinburgh Council, Jo Barnett, Fields in Trust Chair of Trustees, said: "Through the pandemic we've realised just how valuable parks and green spaces are to our health and wellbeing, yet across the UK only 6% of parks are protected and access to them is not equitable. The proven physical and mental health benefits of local parks is unchallenged. These are valuable places; places where we can all move, breathe, run and play. Fields in Trust welcome this significant commitment by the City of Edinburgh Council, we need to champion and support these precious spaces by protecting them for future generations to enjoy. Because once lost, they are lost forever."
If you would be interesting in helping to fund this programme of protection and leave a legacy of parks and green spaces to the people of Edinburgh forever, then we would love to talk to you. Please get in touch today.
Following the pioneering commitments seen in Liverpool and Edinburgh, we need you to help secure the future of your local parks and green spaces by encouraging your local authority to follow in their footsteps.
Explore the findings of the latest Green Space Index then contact your local councillors and invite them to support protection of local green spaces. Ask them if they will submit a motion to the council committing them to work with Fields in Trust to protect local parks.
If your local MP, MSP, MS, AM or elected Mayor is not already a signatory of the Parks Protector Pledge then you can also write to them and ask them to join their colleagues.
You can also get lots more tips and information on champion, support and campaign to protect your local parks in our Watch This Space resource. It is up to all of us to take action to champion, support and protect our local parks and green spaces for good. Because once lost, a green space is lost forever.
Watch This Space is our three-step resource for communities to champion and support their local green spaces and campaign to protect them with an easy-to-use guide to the planning system.
Fields in Trust is an independent charity with over 90 years’ experience protecting parks and green spaces. We work with landowners, community groups and policymakers to champion the value of our parks and green spaces to achieve better protection for their future at both local and national level.