Accessibility and allocation of public parks and gardens in England and Wales: A COVID-19 social distancing perspective

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Published: 27Oct2020

Shoari N, Ezzati M, Baumgartner J, Malacarne D, Fecht D (2020)

PLoS ONE 15(10): e0241102.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241102

Abstract

Visiting parks and gardens supports physical and mental health. We quantified access to public parks and gardens in urban areas of England and Wales, and the potential for park crowdedness during periods of high use. We combined data from the Office for National Statistics and Ordnance Survey to quantify (i) the number of parks within 500 and 1,000 metres of urban postcodes (i.e., availability), (ii) the distance of postcodes to the nearest park (i.e., accessibility), and (iii) per-capita space in each park for people living within 1,000m. We examined variability by city and share of flats. Around 25.4 million people (~87%) can access public parks or gardens within a ten-minute walk, while 3.8 million residents (~13%) live farther away; of these 21% are children and 13% are elderly. Areas with a higher share of flats on average are closer to a park but people living in these areas visit parks that are potentially overcrowded during periods of high use. Such disparity in urban areas of England and Wales becomes particularly evident during COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown when local parks, the only available out-of-home space option, hinder social distancing requirements. Cities aiming to facilitate social distancing while keeping public green spaces safe might require implementing measures such as dedicated park times for different age groups or entry allocation systems that, combined with smartphone apps or drones, can monitor and manage the total number of people using the park.

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