Does Greater Manchester have more green space than we think?

The University of Manchester mapped all of Greater Manchester’s green space including parks, trees, playing fields and private gardens
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The coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp reality how important our relationship to green space is for our wellbeing.

85% of people who live or work in Greater Manchester think that the region is only moderately green, according to a recent study by The Royal Horticultural Society.

But despite this, evidence from University of Manchester shows that 50% of urban Greater Manchester is actually green space, including parks, trees, playing fields and private gardens.

As part of the nature-based solutions IGNITION project, University of Manchester mapped all of Greater Manchester’s green space to gather a baseline for the city region.

The study found that over half of Greater Manchester’s urban areas are green or blue space, and about half of this urban green space is private gardens.

Whilst this highlights what a large asset green space is to GM, it also shows the potential for residents with gardens to improve our capacity to cope with climate change and increase opportunities for wildlife.

As part of the same project, the RHS surveyed over 2,000 Greater Manchester residents on their relationship to and understanding of green spaces and climate change.

The results showed that 97% recognised that climate change is a risk for the city region, and whilst 80% value natures’ benefits for health and biodiversity, the benefits to help us cope with the effects of climate change were underestimated.

A Climate Emergency was declared by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2019, alongside the creation of the Five-Year Environment Plan that provides a resilience strategy to cope with the risks that climate change brings to the city region.

If Greater Manchester’s citizens tweaked their gardens to include more planting areas, trees or ponds, and fewer hard surfaces this could help their local community with reducing flood risk, improve their wellbeing, provide a home for wildlife, improve air quality and soak up more carbon.

For those of us with limited space, there is still potential to feel these benefits as a recent RHS study found that installing ornamental planting in front gardens across northern England created a healthier pattern in the resident’s stress hormones.

A volunteer takes part in a gardening session at Petrus Community Allotment and Garden in Rochdale. Photo: RHS / Mark Waugh

“Gardening and green spaces has so much to offer the public and this study demonstrates just how much people value access to them,” says Prof. Alistair Griffiths from the Royal Horticultural Society.

“Combining this survey with the recent scientific evidence gathered on the benefits of plants on people’s physical, mental and social health we can see a robust case for investment into the local environment. 

“Success will require ambitious local authorities working closely with communities to drive forward positive green investment.

“The RHS stands ready to play our part in this new era of greening our urban centres.”

Greening our communities can also provide economic incentives whilst creating a safer place to live and work, says the study.

The IGNITION project has collated evidence that links to greener areas to having higher property values, increased local economic growth and decreasing crime rates, too.

And the great thing is you don’t have to wait until spring, as tree planting season is happening now.

City of Trees has informative guides on all things tree planting here, and you can search the RHS Plant database to help you find the best plants for your garden type.

What do you reckon?

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