Fields in Trust’s annual Green Space Index on Great Britain’s parks and green spaces has found that nearly 10% of people in the UK do not have either of these within local walking distance.
The study conducted by the charity shows that 6.1 million people living in the UK are without access to a green space within a 10-minute walk, which it says highlights a disparity in green space to household ratio.
Studies have suggested that access to green spaces holds a great many number of wellbeing benefits, highlighting their importance in communities. Research conducted by the charity in 2022 shows that local parks generate around £34bn of wellbeing benefit to the UK each year, saving the NHS £111 from reduced GP visits.
At present there is no minimum provision of green spaces required by local authorities to designate or protect.
Fields in Trust states 4,000 new green spaces are needed by 2033 to maintain the current level of park provision per person. As urban expansion and population increases, so will this minimum, says the charity.
Earlier this year, the Government set out a 25-year Environmental Improvement Plan to ensure everyone has access to green and blue spaces within a 15-minute walk. It has set aside £9m in Levelling-Up funding to create 100 new parks, with a further £39m for the restoration and maintenance of those in worsening condition.
Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee and trustee of Fields in Trust, Clive Betts MP, says: “With the King’s Fund research finding that real terms public health funding has fallen by 25% over just five years, access to free green space with all the benefits it provides, has never been more important.
“It’s vital that providing these spaces for everyone is a key element of the Government’s Levelling-Up policy, and deeply disappointing that over six million people still don’t have access to green spaces. We must now take the opportunity through the Levelling-Up measures to bring in policy change that puts health and well-being at the heart of our communities, and the planning decisions that affect them.”
While these steps are proactively in the right direction, the UK will still be short 4,000 new parks to maintain the current average provision says Fields in Trust.
The charity says it will continue to champion the demand for accessible green spaces for everyone.