Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature – what does it mean for Greater Manchester?

The ‘Out of Bounds: Equity in Access to Urban Nature’ report was published by Groundwork this week, drawing on evidence and insight from contributors across the green space, health and equalities sectors.

But what does the report mean for Greater Manchester?

Here, Michaela Howell, Head of Communities at Groundwork Greater Manchester, explores this question.

Salford Parklet

Parklets like this one in Salford may help to improve access to greenspaces.

Many of us have fallen in love with a local green space during the Covid-19 pandemic. Parks and riversides have acted as havens during times of stress and isolation. However, access to local green spaces aren’t readily available for all citizens, meaning that many people miss out on the health benefits our greenspaces provide. Almost 40% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in the most greenspace deprived areas, compared to 14% of white people (Friends of the Earth 2020).

We must recognise that access to green space is an environmental justice issue. This report from Groundwork and 23 other organisations, highlights important considerations which we must all address if we are to combat inequalities in accessing urban nature.

Recommendation 1: We must reimagine urban nature to ensure that it meets the needs and desires of communities today.

At Groundwork Greater Manchester, we have spent the last 2 years discussing the future of Manchester’s river valleys with the local community; understanding how they want to see them improved, from heritage trails to ecology training. We will be building on this work this year and into 2022, introducing local people who might not currently access the river, to the health and social benefits of nature.

In addition, our team of landscape architects are currently working with a community centre on the outskirts of Manchester to redesign their outdoor space. Local people have led on the design features, outlining what they need the space to provide. Our landscape architects have worked closely with them to co-design an urban environment that is playful, contemplative and has growing and wildlife spaces within it.

Recommendation 2: We must rebalance power in the management of green and blue spaces and build better partnerships.

In addition to the co-design approach used by Groundwork Greater Manchester when delivering community green space improvements, Groundwork Greater Manchester is also offering an innovative programme of green skills training, creating new job opportunities for local people looking to start or build a career in the natural environment sector. As an organisation, we are actively creating job roles and partnerships which link us more closely with ethnically diverse communities. By involving local people in the design, delivery and management of local green spaces, their connectedness and influence over their local spaces will become more balanced.

Recommendation 3: We need to integrate urban nature solutions fully into efforts to tackle health inequalities, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Although ‘Green Social Prescribing’ is already happening in Greater Manchester, access to the service is currently unequal, with those suffering the greatest health inequalities being the least likely to benefit. The Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership has funded grass roots partnership projects to build on the current offer and support areas that have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19 and tackle the growing health inequalities. Groundwork Greater Manchester, whilst delivering nature based activities as part of this scheme, will also be providing a digital resource exchange for groups to share their tips and hints and to ensure that they have access to the latest resources and toolkits.

What can you do?

  • Raise awareness by sharing the report findings on social media.
  • Share what actions your organisation will take to make access to nature more equal, either on social media or directly with your partners.
  • Get in touch if you are an organisation that represents a community facing unequal access to greenspace, we would love to work with you to understand the challenges you face in more detail.
  • Get in touch to discuss how your organisation can help us to deliver more work in this area.