A newly released survey Ramblers, Britain's walking charity working to protect and expand the places people love to walk and promote walking for health and pleasure, found out that wealthy and white people enjoy easier access to local green space than poorer households and people from ethnic minorities.
The Ramblers/YouGov survey, in which more than 2,000 adults took part of, is supported by new mapping by Friends of the Earth which has found that 11 million people in England live in areas with the lowest level of green space, with less than nine square metres of public green space per person, few gardens and 75% of residents having to walk more than five minutes to find larger green areas.
According to the data, 42% of people from ethnic minorities live in England’s most green space-deprived neighbourhoods, compared with just one in five white people.
While 57% of British adults that took part in the research declared that they live within five minutes’ stroll of a local park, field or canal path, just 39% of people from ‘BAME’ backgrounds acknowledged the same proximity to green spaces. Specifically, it has been established that fewer than half of those with a household income of less than £15,000 live close to green spaces, but 63% of those with a household income of more than £35,000 can find green space within five minutes’ walk of their home.
Dr Anjana Khatwa, Earth Scientist specialised in bringing stories about the origins and formation of natural landscapes to life for a wide range of audiences and member of the Ramblers, explained: “Having worked in the natural heritage sector for over 20 years, I am deeply aware of the inequity of access to natural spaces for black and Asian communities and those living in deprivation.
“The heavy visitation to rural and coastal spaces once lockdown was lifted, demonstrated to me that our underserved communities crave to be in spaces rich with natural capital. Imagine a world where you could leave your city centre flat and within five minutes be walking through a field of wildflowers buzzing with wildlife. This is what we are asking the government to include in the environment bill. To recognise that every person, no matter where they live, has a human right to access green spaces that allow them to connect with nature and their landscape.”
The survey also discovered that the current pandemic has increased people’s awareness of the importance of nearby nature. Even though the 65% of adults reported that their ability to enjoy local green space had always been significant to them, an additional 19% reported that green spaces were more important to them now than before the pandemic outbreak.
The findings are very similar to the expectations that the researchers had before starting the study, due to the increased data that revealed the inequalities of access to public green space across Britain.
Paul de Zylva, a Friends of the Earth nature campaigner, highlighted: “For many of us lockdown exposed how critical quality outdoor space and nature is for our health and wellbeing. But our research shows just how much of a distant reality that is for millions of people across England who live in nature-deprived neighbourhoods. Everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment. Greener neighbourhoods, well-insulated homes and high-quality cycling routes are some of the key parts of this.
“The forthcoming spending review is an opportunity to make people happier and healthier, improve equality, and help fix the climate crisis. This would be a triple win for government investment.”