NEWS: Report finds severe inequalities in access to parks and greenspaces in communities across the UK

The ‘Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature’ report has been published by community charity Groundwork drawing on evidence and insight from contributors across the green space, health and equalities sectors. It highlights that, while people from all walks of life value and see the importance of regular access to nature, not all places and spaces are equal in what they can offer local communities.

Key findings

Key findings reveal that Covid-19 has widened the inequality gap and people from low-income areas, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled people are among the groups that miss out on the full benefits of urban nature.

Reasons for this inequality include a lack of parks and greenspaces in more disadvantaged areas, issues such as quality and safety concerns and societal barriers which prevent people from feeling comfortable and welcome in shared open spaces.

Key statistics brought together in the report show that:

  • Only 5% of adults say that access to nature has never been important to them or their mental health
  • 40% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in the most green-space deprived areas
  • 29% of people living with a long-term illness or disability had not visited a natural space in the previous month

The purpose of the report is to examine the evidence on which groups use parks and greenspaces the most and highlight the barriers that prevent certain people from accessing their local outdoor provision.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for how those responsible for parks, green and blue spaces can do more to ensure equal access for all parts of the community. It calls for the role of parks and green/blue spaces in urban areas to be ‘reimagined’, putting communities and local people at the forefront of decision-making when it comes to their design and management. This will help efforts to level up local economies, improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of those suffering greatest health inequalities as well as tackling climate change and supporting nature recovery.

Read the full report

As the immediate threat of Covid recedes in the UK we will be able to assess the full extent of the scars it has left on our physical and mental health. Parks and other green and blue spaces played a huge role in supporting people’s wellbeing during lockdowns and have the potential to be central to our recovery, but only if those who most need their restorative benefits feel able to use them. As we follow our roadmap out of the pandemic we need to invest in this vital community infrastructure. All of us involved in the planning, design and management of green spaces also need to listen hard to what we’re being told and work actively to remove the physical and societal barriers that prevent people from accessing our natural health system.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s UK Chief Executive

Urban green spaces are important for everyone’s health and wellbeing. They offer a wealth of physical and mental health benefits, particularly for people who have the most to gain from them, including disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. They offer a space to take physical exercise, to meet with friends, and to simply breathe in some fresh air, whilst absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of nature. It is therefore vital that we ensure that everyone has equal access to these much needed spaces. This report is an important step to that aim.

Anna Denham, Get Yourself Active Programme Manager, Disability Rights UK

A really comprehensive and readable report telling us all why not only access to green and blue space is important, but why equity in regard to this access is crucial. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us more than ever why access to nature is so important to all sections of our population – the challenge now is to make this a reality.

Hamira Sultan, Consultant in Public Health at Birmingham City Council and Future Parks Accelerator Director