Green space the size of tennis court for every Scot

There is the equivalent of this much green space per Scot. Picture: Getty
There is the equivalent of this much green space per Scot. Picture: Getty
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THERE is an area the size of a tennis court of green space for every person in urban Scotland, a new report has revealed.

The research by charity Greenspace Scotland has shown for the first time the extent and type of urban green space in all 32 Scottish local authority areas. The Second State of Scotland’s Greenspace report found the total area of green space, including parks and gardens, in urban Scotland is 680 square miles.

It equates to an average of 24 square metres of green space per person, or roughly one tennis court. However, not all the green space is open to the public, with private gardens accounting for 39 per cent of it.

Natural spaces make up a further 22 per cent; amenity areas around houses and buildings add another 16 per cent. Sports areas account for just 10 per cent, and public parks and gardens only 8 per cent. Play spaces, allotments and cemeteries cover only a very small area.

Julie Procter, chief executive of Greenspace Scotland, said: “Some people have very good access to green space, but others have less access. This is both in terms of the quantity and quality. Quality is often the most important factor in deciding whether it gets used. You can think of tower blocks surrounded by green desert that’s good for nobody.”

She said the challenge was for local authorities to work out how to put these “green deserts” to good use, such as by turning them into allotments or children’s play areas.

And she emphasised the importance of good-quality green space. “Surveys show that experiencing green space and just looking at it reduces our levels of stress, and improves our well-being, which is vital at the moment,” she said.

“It also shows that people who live near it have higher levels of physical activity, which is good for tackling obesity and also longer-term health problems such as heart disease.

“It has also been shown that businesses are more likely to locate in areas with green space, meaning it can also help out in tackling the economic downturn.”

Despite the average figure of a tennis court of green space for each person in urban Scotland, latest research by the charity suggests people are beginning to use it less.

Despite a rise up to 2009 in frequency of use of local green spaces, results for 2011 showed a drop from 63 to 54 per cent in people reporting they use local green space once a week or more. Ms Procter said: “It is a concern. It’s counter-intuitive because you would think when household budgets are under pressure, you would be using these areas more often. Maybe it’s to do with the weather, or working harder.”

She is also worried that it might be to do with quality dropping, due to local authorities spending less on maintenance as a result of pressures on budgets.

The study also showed a drop from 2009 to 2011 in the number of people rating their local green spaces as safe places for physical activity (60 per cent down to 49 per cent), places where you can relax and unwind (63 per cent down to 50 per cent), attractive (57 per cent down to 48 per cent) and good places for children to play (59 per cent down to 52 per cent).

The report was a partnership project supported by Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Forestry Commission Scotland and the Central Scotland Green Network Support Unit.