Green spaces in poorer parts of England are less likely to be protected against being bulldozed and developed than those in more affluent areas, according to a new study.
Overall the number of designated local green spaces has increased by more than 700 in the past 12 months. But today’s report, by rural charity the CPRE, reveals that parks, public spaces and small areas of trees in more deprived areas are less likely to be officially protected.
Brad Taylor, lead author on the report, said: “Communities with high levels of deprivation need to have their voices heard and their local green spaces protected.”
He said people must be empowered to engage in the local and neighbourhood planning process that can secure official local green space designations, which mean the land cannot be built upon.
There is a growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of access to green spaces not just for wildlife and biodiversity, but for a host of physical and mental health benefits. Green spaces also help protect against flooding and heatwaves.
Local green space (LGS) designations were introduced in 2012 to give green belt-like protections to smaller areas of land that are often identified by communities themselves. Since then, 7,286 LGS areas have been established for reasons including their recreational value, beauty and importance for wildlife.
Today’s report found that 711 new local green spaces have been designated since 2022, the majority in northern England. In London, the total number grew by 64%.
But while designations have increased in deprived areas, CPRE mapping reveals that a strong correlation persists between deprivation and lack of green space.
The study looked at four areas in detail:
Blackpool, which has high levels of deprivation and no LGS designations.
Hull, one of the few local authorities with no LGS designations despite having many green spaces.
Shropshire, where LGS designations for school playing fields have played a part in rejuvenating rural areas and providing young people with much-needed opportunities to socialise.
London, where a community garden designated as an LGS has boosted academic performance and enabled young people to connect with nature.
CPRE is calling for the LGS designation process to be standardised to make it easier for communities to make use of the legislation.
Taylor said: “Our green spaces are there for everyone to enjoy – everyone needs to be involved in deciding how to protect them.”
Source : The Guardian