According to a review of cartographic data, Londoners living in deprived areas and those from BAME backgrounds share less space and have less access to private gardens and public parks.
A third of the land in the wealthiest 10% of London’s neighborhoods was occupied by private gardens, while in the poorest 10%, just over a fifth was occupied by gardens.
This suggests that people in the most disadvantaged areas would be disproportionately affected by new park closings if the locking restrictions became more severe.
At least three boroughs have imposed partial park closings, in addition to closing gymnasiums and outdoor playgrounds, at some point during the UK shutdown period. Seventeen others have warned residents that the parks will be closed if government directives are not followed.
Current government guidelines state that people should only leave their home to exercise once a day and be 2 meters away from others at all times.
London is the most densely populated region in the UK and the foreclosure has put pressure on public green spaces. Scenes of bathers in Brockwell Park in south London on April 4 resulted in the temporary closure of the park and police also reported displacing more than 100 people from Primrose Hill.
The analysis is based on data that categorizes the total area of a neighborhood according to its uses, including home gardening space. It shows that the wealthiest decile of neighborhoods had the highest proportion of private garden space, and the most disadvantaged decile had the lowest.
Population density was also higher in the poorest deciles, which means that more people share less space.
Meredith Whitten, postdoctoral fellow at the LSE School of Geography and the Environment, said that access to green spaces is vital to public health.
“Even before the pandemic, there was an increasing emphasis on research on the physical and mental health benefits of green spaces.
“The proximity of green spaces makes us move more and that has advantages. Having access to nature gives us a feeling of calm and tranquility … which helps reduce the stress that comes mainly from urban life. “
In the poorest decile, about half of the inhabitants were BAME on average, more than double the proportion in the richest decile, where 20% were not white.
A similar pattern emerges when we look at access to public parks and green spaces. Again, the wealthiest neighborhoods had the highest proportion of public space on average with 35% compared to 25% in the most disadvantaged.
Whitten said there were similar trends in the 19th century. “During the Victorian era, the wealthiest classes had their places and their gardens, but the working class did not have them because they lived in crowded conditions, often like slums. “
“The Victorians recognized that they had to provide access to nature and this is really how the public park movement in Britain started. “
The Tower Hamlets council closed Victoria Park for a period but now reopened it with limited hours. On March 27, the Hammersmith & Fulham council reversed its decision to close the parks following government announcements of new emergency laws.
As of April 8, the vast majority of London councils have informed residents that the parks remain open. However, more than half of the 33 councils had issued warnings, stating that if people did not follow government directives, the situation would be reconsidered.
Figures released by Google last week show that attendance at London parks on March 29 has decreased by approximately 59% from activity in January and February 2020.
Data on the percentage of gardens for each neighborhood were taken from the 2005 report of the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Land Use by Borough and Ward, the most recent measure publicly available. A 2018 report released by the London mayor’s office indicates that the major categories of land use have remained more or less the same since 2002.
Data on the percentage of parks for each neighborhood were taken from the Greater London Authority’s 2015 report, neighborhood profiles and the Atlas, as were the percentage of BAME residents and the population density for each neighborhood, which date respectively from 2011 and 2013.
All deprivation comparisons are based on 2015 district-level deprivation data for 2015 published by Public Health England. (The 2015 data do not provide a deprivation score for the London area, which is why the median deprivation score was used for comparison). Due to differences in neighborhood boundaries between 2005 and 2015, the analysis is based on 483 of the 659 areas (or 73%) of the boroughs of London.