Exeter tops UK’s greenest city centre list; Glasgow bottom

Exeter has been rated the “greenest” city in the UK while Glasgow’s urban centre is the least green, a new study of 68 city centres in the UK has found.

The study compared the greenness of tree cover, vegetation and the presence of parks – factors that have been linked with positive outcomes for health, the economy, education and crime.

Researchers from Flinders University, University of Sheffield, University of Melbourne and Environmental Protection Authority Victoria evaluated urban centres with larger populations of more than 100,000 people to create a metric of urban ecosystems, vegetation and human health, social equity and biodiversity.

Five cities in southern England were ranked highest: Exeter, Islington (in London), Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge. Five in the previously industrial north had the lowest: Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Glasgow at the bottom. 

“While previous studies have measured greenness in broader suburban areas, our study focuses on city centres where people of diverse backgrounds spend much time at work, recreation and shopping,” said author Dr Jake Robinson, a European microbial ecologist and Flinders University researcher.

“While people’s lives are enhanced by the greenness of their city, many cities have high tree densities in the suburban areas, but not their urban centres.

“Not surprisingly, the urban centres with higher tree and vegetation cover, public green spaces including parks and sports fields, have developed after more focus on urban planning rather than urban sprawl and industrial growth, and now have lower levels of deprivation in general, including in human health metrics.”

The urban centres with larger populations had lower tree coverage and lower normalised difference in vegetation index, measured by satellite observations of light absorption and reflection.

These disparities in city centre greenness across Britain should be incorporated in further city planning, said co-author Dr Paul Brindley from the University of Sheffield.

“This work could help inform efforts by local authorities and urban planners to monitor greening interventions and boost the greenness of city centres in a more equitable manner,” he said.

It is projected that nearly 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in towns and cities by 2050. Global urbanisation is putting increasing pressure on biodiversity and human health, including with harmful air pollution and other gases and particulate matter and degrading habitats.

“The need to re-imagine and re-develop our urban city centres due to digital shopping technologies and societal changes provides an important opportunity to explicitly consider the enhancement of urban centre biodiversity,” the research concluded.

In 2017, an E&T study found that trees were being chopped down at an alarming rate in London, with over 10,000 specimens removed by council chainsaw crews across the previous year.

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Original Source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2022/11/exeter-tops-uk-s-greenest-cities-list-while-glasgow-languishes-at-the-bottom/

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