Accessible Natural Greenspace

Accessible Natural Greenspace in Essex   (ANGSt)

Natural greenspaces are areas of land that have some kind of natural processes going on, whether in a scrubby strip of land around the edge of a recreation ground, or an ancient woodland that has been there for hundreds of years. To be accessible, there should be freely available public access to the area, in a greater form than a public right of way crossing the land.

Natural England has devised the Accessible Natural Greenspace Standard (ANGSt), which sets out the minimum amount of accessible natural greenspace that any household should be within reach of. The criteria state that:

  • no person should live more than 300 metres from their nearest area of accessible natural greenspace of at least 2 hectares in size;
  • there should be at least one accessible 20 hectare site within 2 kilometres of home;
  • there should be one accessible 100 hectare site within 5 kilometres of home;
  • there should be one accessible 500 hectare site within 10 kilometres of home.

With funding from Natural England, Essex Wildlife Trust has  undertaken an analysis of how well the Essex population is served by access to natural greenspaces, (also known as Green Infrastructure). The findings are reported in this Downloadable Document "Analysis of Accessible Natural Greenspace Provision for Essex, including Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock Unitary Authorities" (PDF 750KB)
The results show that only 7% of Essex households have all of their ANGSt requirements met, and perhaps more worryingly 14% of households within Essex have none of their ANGSt requirements met. Interestingly, the areas that fare the worst according to the ANGSt criteria are the more rural parts of the county; although there may be greenspace surrounding rural inhabitants, there is often limited official public access beyond the footpath network.
Research demonstrates that using natural greenspace reduces heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes, so by supporting the provision of accessible natural greenspace, local authorities will be promoting the health and well-being of the people living locally, while also providing valuable habitats for wildlife.

Green Infrastructure

This concept is comparable to Accessible Natural Greenspace, but has become the preferred terminology in published guidance.   Green Infrastructure is ‘a network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable  of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities’   (National Planning Policy Framework - Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012  Green space is taken to include rivers, standing waters, coastal waters and estuaries.

The planning system in England has undergone fundamental change through the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework, which have shifted power to the local and neighbourhood levels while continuing to emphasise the importance of sustainable development and supporting the objectives of the Natural Environment White Paper. The Government no longer sees it as its role to provide detailed policy guidance but wishes local authorities and communities to be active and innovative in shaping their own future.

The Town & Country Planning Association and the The Wildlife Trusts have published "Planning for a healthy environment – good practice guidance for green infrastructure and biodiversity", July 2012, which  is designed to offer advice to planning practitioners on how green infrastructure and biodiversity can be enhanced and protected through the planning system. It focuses on the changes brought about by the Localism Act 2011, the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in March 2012. As it states at the outset "Thinking about nature should be the starting point of good planning, and is an essential component of delivering sustainable development".

It draws together and references the wealth of advice and legislation which has been produced in recent years which encourages placing biodiversity at the heart of planning, includes case examples and sets out general principles to be followed.