Study reveals Britain’s greenest cities – and they’re all in the south

A new study revealing Britain’s greenest cities could give urban ecotourism a boost.

Exeter has the greenest core of any UK city, according to the new study, followed by Islington in north London, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge.

In the first study of its kind, researchers analyzed 68 city centers with at least 100,000 residents, ranking them according to tree cover, vegetation, parks and sports fields.

Lead researcher Jake Robinson said urban greening is on the rise in cities, with hotels improving their sustainability and appeal by including green roofs and walls that attract butterflies and bees.

“Some cities in our study are quite lush and green, which could lead to a growth in ‘urban ecotourism,’ where people vacation in cities to experience the admiration of urban nature,” he said. -he declares.

“Cities are global tourist hotspots, and they are increasingly emphasizing their natural spaces to boost their appeal. Improving our urban green spaces also attracts beautiful wildlife. This provides an additional factor of wonder for visitors, but also plays a vital role in the conservation of biodiversity.

“Green spaces and trees can also reduce noise and air pollution, which can only improve the comfort of your stay in the city.”

The results, published in the scientific journal PLOS One, reveal that the greenest city centers are all in the south of the country. All of the worst-rated cities are in former industrial areas in northern Britain: Glasgow was found to be the least green city centre, followed by Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Liverpool and Leeds.

“Green spaces have been proven time and time again to improve people’s well-being and are essential for biodiversity, but no one has ever examined how green our city centers are, despite the time people spend there. happen on a daily basis,” said Dr. Paul. Brindley from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture, who is a lead author of the study.

Besides the geographic divide, the research also revealed a statistical link between a lower greenness score and higher levels of deprivation. “These disparities clearly highlight the need to urgently improve the greenness of town centers at the bottom of the list and to ensure that action is taken by local authorities to close the gap,” Brindley said. .

Amal Ghusain, Exeter’s senior councilor for city management and environmental services, said her council had worked hard to protect the city’s green spaces. “We benefit from a range of open green spaces, including our six Exeter Valley Parks, managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust, sports fields, 1,400 housing estates and a number of green graveyards,” said she declared.

“Our parks help break up the urban nature of the city, and we recognize their importance for mental health, well-being and to help us with our carbon neutral agenda.”

Rowena Champion, executive member of Islington’s council for the environment, air quality and transport, was also thrilled with the research. “Islington is one of Britain’s most densely populated local authorities and only 13% of the borough’s land is green space, which is why it’s so important that we do the best we can with what we do. have, to deliver better health outcomes for all,” she said.

wildflowers and modern university buildings
Sheffield city center from an urban wildflower meadow. Photograph: Deborah Vernon/Alamy

“We have taken bold steps to achieve this, including planting over 700 trees last year – which increased our canopy cover by 25% – and recently joining the Mayor of London’s Trees for Streets scheme, to that local people can help get more trees into the ground. Through our Greener Together program, which has funded 38 eco-friendly community projects, we help local people bring their green ideas to life.

Despite Sheffield’s low ranking for city center greenery, the study’s researchers pointed out that the wider city is recognized as the greenest city in the country as a whole.

“Sheffield is a spectacular city for its green spaces, with the Peak District on its doorstep and more trees per person than any other city in Europe. However, its center does not rank highly in terms of greenery compared to other urban centers,” Brindley said. “This was one of our most surprising findings. But it underscores why the study is so important and the vital need to identify inequalities in green space, even in the least obvious places, and to promote measures to remedy it.

If the study is repeated next year, however, Sheffield could find themselves pushed up the list. “Work is already underway in Sheffield city centre,” Brindley said, “to bring it in line with its leafy suburbs and the extensive parks just a stone’s throw away, making it the greenest in the UK.”

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