Speaking at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) State of Nature conference in London yesterday, Nick Clegg announced that the Ordnance Survey would compile and release data to enable the creation of a new map of every publicly accessible green space in England and Wales and will allow anyone with access to the internet to find the location of their nearest park instantly.
The map will use data from the Ordnance Survey and other sources, which will be made available for free so it can be used to create apps or other software.
He said: "Britain’s parks and countryside are the envy of the world, and I want to make sure everybody can use them. Sometimes we can live 10 minutes’ walk from a park and not even realise it. Yet public bodies hold all of the data on where these green spaces are.
By opening up this data we can enable thousands of people to enjoy every inch of our green spaces at the swipe of a touch screen. With Britain’s innovative app developers given access to the data, we can help make sure you can always find your way back to nature."
Parks experts have been calling for a national database of green spaces for some time and the State of UK Public Parks report
published by the Heritage Lottery Fund in June outlined the lack of useable green space data in the UK.
In May the City of London Corporation charity City Bridge Trust launched a website
to map all parks in London, also with the hope that the interactive site would become a TripAdvisor for parks.
Chairman of The Parks Alliance, the industry body formed to stand up for parks, Mark Camley welcomed the annoucement: "I think it is great that a senior member of the Government has explicitly recognised the value of parks. The Parks Alliance agree with his assessment of the benefits they bring and share his concerns about the state of some of them. We will want to play these comments back to Stephen Williams MP when we see him in November.
He added: "We would like all the parties to recognise the value and state of parks, and agree to do something positive about them."
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of national conservation body The Open Spaces Society said members were delighted by the announcement: "We’re pleased to learn of the new project for green space, bringing these vital lungs to the public’s attention. But it is essential that local authorities maintain and increase their funding for public spaces, and resist using them for commercial purposes, so that they are a joy to visit.
"Green spaces are vital for relaxation, refreshment and reflection. Too many parks are now run down and neglected. They are the green jewels of our towns."