Oxfordshire’s green space-deprived neighbourhoods

A report, released today by the researchers in the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, identifies neighbourhoods in Oxfordshire experiencing both socio-economic deprivation and poor provision of accessible green spaces, with a view to these neighbourhoods being prioritised in terms of planning, allocation of funding, and effort for improving quality and quantity of accessible green spaces.

The report’s author, Dr. Martha Crockatt noted: “Everyone should be able to freely access green space within a short walk from their home. I hope the report will help focus funding and effort to improve green space quality and quantity in these areas in collaboration with local communities, increasing the benefits from green space for those who need it most.”

There are well known links between health and access to and engagement with ‘greenspace’– including parks, playing fields and natural/semi-natural spaces – which is increasingly recognised in environment and health policy. However, more socio-economically deprived communities often have less access to greenspace, and there is evidence that these communities receive greater health benefits from it.

The report identifies neighbourhoods in Oxfordshire that are relatively deprived according to socio-economic measures and lack access to greenspace on a number metrics (including amount of greenspace, greenspace crowding and private gardens). These neighbourhoods, predominantly in urban areas, are presented as priorities for greenspace funding and effort. Although it is often virtually impossible to create new greenspaces in densely populated urban environments, existing greenspaces can be improved and protected from development, and innovative solutions can be considered, such as greening active travel routes and pocket parks. In approaching such efforts, the report noted the importance of consulting local communities in decision-making, to ensure that local greenspace works for those using it.

Councillor Nathan Ley, Oxfordshire County Council portfolio holder for Public Health, Inequalities and Community Safety commented: “This report provides an important starting point for working with communities to improve the quality of their local green spaces, so that people of all ages are able to enjoy both the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature.”

The project was developed in collaboration with a number of partners, including the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership (OLNP), in support of its work championing the provision of wildlife rich green spaces so that people and nature can thrive together. Recommendations for Oxfordshire greenspace based on the report were developed with local government officers and NGOs with responsibilities in the subject.

Matt Whitney, Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership (OLNP) manager noted: “We hope that this report will help guide the brilliant work of our partners in the conservation, policy making and community engagement sectors, to ensure we prioritise creating and improving green spaces with the communities that need them most. We are pleased to support quality research like this, which helps our partners work effectively to reverse the decline in nature so that people and nature can thrive.”

Collaborators involved in the production of the report include:

Matt Witney (Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership), Alison Smith (University of Oxford, Environmental Change Institute), Rosie Rowe (Oxfordshire County Council), Mark Hirons (University of Oxford, Environmental Change Institute), Constance McDermott (University of Oxford, Environmental Change Institute), Camilla Burrow (Wild Oxfordshire) and Joseph Gent.

Download the report here

Watch a short clip about the report here