Mapping Public Access to Green Infrastructure

Mapping Public Access to Green Infrastructure

A programme investigating the provision of green spaces which has been widely recognised to supply a range of economic, health and community benefits. This research is led by Professor Andrew Lovett.

About this research stream

Despite the recognised importance of green infrastructure there is no authoritative database that can be used by researchers in England to assess such provision on regional or national scales. This research focuses on:

The data challenge

Despite the recognised importance of green infrastructure there is no authoritative database that can be used by researchers in England to assess such provision on regional or national scales. There are many individually relevant databases on aspects such as land cover, parks or cycle routes, but even where these are in the public domain they are dispersed across organisations and often have limited geographical coverage.

Public accessibility of green infrastructure is complex to identify and is a key issue in terms of whether potential benefits are actually realised.

The Ordnance Survey (OS) show public footpaths on 1:25,000 raster maps, but this is essentially backdrop mapping rather than something that can be integrated with other data sources for analytical purposes. Vector (line) representations of footpaths are included in the most detailed OS MasterMap product, but this is outside the current OpenData licence and the volume of data is such that it is time consuming to extract the relevant details for larger areas. In a 2012 blog post the Ordnance Survey was asked if there were any plans to include paths and Public Rights-of-Way (PRoW) in the OpenData VectorMap District product and replied that there were not because “there is no current, maintained and nationally consistent source of accessibility information that we could reliably incorporate into our products”. There are individual PRoW databases maintained by counties and other authorities, but many of these are not widely accessible and as of autumn 2013 only four counties (East Sussex, Hampshire, Norfolk and Worcestershire) had made such data available on the portal.

Research aims and products

A green infrastructure database that incorporates information on public accessibility and is directly compatible with the existing OS OpenData VectorMap District product will be generated. In the pilot phase this will be achieved by integrating public domain datasets from organisations such as the European Environment Agency (e.g. CORINE land cover and Urban Atlas data), Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap and Natural England with local authority information for Norfolk, Essex and Kent. It is anticipated that this will allow greenspace to be identified with a minimum mapping unit of 25 ha in rural areas (i.e. a 500m grid cell resolution) and down to 1 ha (100m grid) in urban centres.

The results will then be evaluated by comparing the assessment of green infrastructure against independent local studies and, when demonstrated to be fit for purpose, the approach will be extended to cover the whole of England. This will provide a research and policy resource to complement that which exists for Scotland and associated research will focus on comparing provision against current and prospective future population distributions. The communication and public engagement benefits of using 3D landscape visualisation tools to present information on access to green infrastructure to a range of audiences will also be investigated as part of a series of workshops with local authority planners and other prospective users of the information.

Research news

View a selection of the latest Mapping Public Access to Green Infrastructure research papers below or you can view them all in our Research Repository.

In a recent webinar Andrew Lovett discussed his green infrastructure research work in the paper below.

Research team

Professor Andrew Lovett

Research Lead

Andrew's current research interests include applications of GIS, landscape visualisation software and statistical techniques.

Dr Gilla Sunnenberg


Gilla currently works on our Mapping Green Infrastructure stream.

Dr Amii Harwood


Amii's current research interests include quantitative geography, spatial analysis and GIS.

Professor Andy Jones


Andy's current research interests include environmental determinants of physical activity and obesity.

Dr Katy Appleton


Katy's current research interests include GIS-based landscape visualisation, particularly for communication and participation purposes relating to environmental management and decision-making.