Call to improve social housing landscapes as study links inequality and green space

New research from the Government's urban space advisor CABE has revealed that less than one per cent of people living in social housing use the green space on their estate, with almost half saying they would use it more if it had better facilities.

The largest study of its kind, Community Green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health, looked at the relationship between green space, ethnicity, deprivation and health.

It found "a major opportunity to tackle inequality and improve health and wellbeing in inner cities" through the provision of better green space.

CABE recommends there should be more scope for communities to take over temporarily vacant land and that Registered Social Landlords and local authorities responsible for green spaces should work with voluntary groups to make it easier for people to improve the green spaces on their doorsteps.

CABE director of public space Sarah Gaventa said improving green space benefited those with the most to gain: "There are four million households living in social housing and half of those residents are under 16. Even when funding is tight, green deserts can still be transformed into lovely, safe places where people want to be. What this survey has done is just really highlight inequalities.

"It is very timely with the National Audit Office report last week showing that life expectancy in the UK is widening between the rich and poor. We can show that good quality green space can help to narrow that gap between the rich and the poor so everybody can benefit equally."

Author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists Professor Danny Dorling said: "This research shows that the inequality in provision of green space between communities with large and small black and minority ethnic communities is even worse than inequality in schooling, crime, housing, jobs and health."

Gaventa said she hoped health service providers would take note of the importance of green space so it could become the heart of a strategy to tackle inequality.

Parks consultant and CABE Space enablerSid Sullivan said: "The report makes the point that it is sensitivity to local conditions and requirements that matters, one size does not fit all circumstances. With budgets under intense pressure, local knowledge and approaches are an important way forward for harassed parks managers.

"There are 78 per cent of people who visit their nearest green space - time to direct proportionate finance towards a body of very significant users. In this way the small-to-big approach will apply. Get people interested in the smaller parks and they will in time support the larger parks and travel further a field to visit them. Is the Government listening, and will it forsake its grandiose parks plans for a more modest funding stream that would return much greater use and value for money?"

"The case for social housing providers to make more of their landscapes is overwhelming."

- The study involved in-depth interviews with 523 people in six areas across London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester and a literature review of 150 publications.

CABE has produced a 10-point action plan to target the problem in social housing called Decent Homes Need Decent Spaces.

- www.horticultureweek.com/greenspaceresource.

GREEN SPACE STUDY

The quantity of green space varies across inner cities: where residents are predominantly white, there is 11 times more green space than where 40 per cent of residents are black or minority ethnic.

Half of the 500 people interviewed said they would do more exercise if green spaces were improved and half expected they would have better mental health.

The biggest barriers to using green space were fear about personal safety, lack of facilities and poor quality.

- For analysis of the action plan and a full report see Horticulture Week 16 July


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