Tree cover, green space inequalities and deprivation in England

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We have recently added tree cover data to Local Insight. The benefits of accessing green space on human health and mental well-being have become even clearer to us since the COVID-19 lockdowns. Trees, which comprise a vital part of these green spaces offer numerous benefits to individuals and communities. Not only do they offer a natural sanctuary, but they also play a crucial role in resolving environmental concerns like biodiversity loss and climate change. However, green space inequalities are still a widely recognised challenge, where disadvantaged communities are more likely to have inadequate access to green space and its beneficial components like tree cover. We can use measures such as the Indices of Deprivation and The Community Needs Index to assess the extent of these inequalities and the impacts this may have on communities.

A brilliant new measure of tree canopy cover produced by Friends of the Earth in partnership with Terra Sulis maps tree cover across England and seeks to address these disparities by identifying levels of tree cover in small neighbourhoods and those that are most deprived of trees. We have added this new dataset on ‘Tree cover’ to Local Insight, which can be easily compared to other key indicators to paint a clearer picture of potential environmental inequalities.

About the tree cover data

The tree cover measure provides the percentage of tree canopy cover down to neighbourhood level (LSOA). The original data is derived from the Environment Agency National LiDAR Programme and Forestry Commission National Forest Inventory 2020 at a 1m spatial resolution. For more information on the methodology, see here.

What does the tree cover data show?

A choropleth map showing tree cover data in England. Areas in North West and NOrth East have lowest tree coverage.

Northwest and Northeast regions show low tree coverage

At the national level, headline analysis includes:

  • In the Northwest and Northeast regions, as well as certain areas in Yorkshire and the East of England, neighbourhoods may have higher levels of inadequate tree cover.
  • Approximately 4,000 neighbourhoods have less than 5% tree cover.
  • More than 80% of areas ranked in the bottom third for tree cover are located in urban neighbourhoods.
  • 16% of neighbourhoods ranked in the bottom third for tree cover are also in the 10% of most deprived neighbourhoods.

40% of neighbourhoods with lowest tree coverage are in deprived areas

We looked at the 20 neighbourhoods with the lowest levels of tree cover and compared them to the Indices of Deprivation and the Community Needs Index (CNI). We wanted to see where inadequate tree cover may pose more challenges and where dimensions of local need related to deprivation, social and cultural factors may be associated with tree coverage and wider green space inequalities.

  • The 20 most tree-deprived neighbourhoods were located within Arun, Halton, Barrow-in-Furness, Liverpool, Isle of Wight, and Vale of White Horse.
  • The majority of these neighbourhoods are situated in urban regions, where inadequate access to green space is more prevalent.
  • Eight of these neighbourhoods rank among the 20% of most deprived neighbourhoods.
  • Eight of these neighbourhoods also rank among the 20% of neighbourhoods with the highest level of community need.
  • Neighbourhoods in Barrow-in-Furness may encounter dual challenges related to deprivation and community need, which could be exacerbated by environmental inequalities like inadequate tree cover.
LSOA nameArea typeTree canopy cover %IMD Decile (where 1 is most deprived 10% of LSOAs)CNI score
Arun 017Aurban0.0002592.606
Halton 011Eurban0.00034125.751
Halton 011Drural0.00034125.751
Barrow-in-Furness 010Curban0.0004897.223
Barrow-in-Furness 007Aurban0.0004169.671
Barrow-in-Furness 007Curban0.00042104.037
Barrow-in-Furness 007Furban0.00042104.037
Liverpool 062Curban0.00048108.788
Isle of Wight 002Curban0.0005571.243
East Hampshire 006Eurban0.0005755.209
Barrow-in-Furness 008Curban0.0006169.671
Halton 011Burban0.00065115.764
Isle of Wight 001Brural0.0006671.744
Barrow-in-Furness 009Erural0.0006397.223
Vale of White Horse 009Curban0.00075123.78
Barrow-in-Furness 007Erural0.0007181.05
Barrow-in-Furness 010Durban0.0008597.223
Barrow-in-Furness 008Aurban0.0008170.5
Barrow-in-Furness 007Durban0.00082104.037
Barrow-in-Furness 008Burban0.0009169.883

Hartlepool, Bradford and Burnley are among the Local Authorities with lowest levels of tree cover, as well as a large proportion of deprived neighbourhoods.

We also had a look at the 20 Local Authorities with the lowest levels of tree cover.

  • The areas of South Holland, Boston, and Fenland exhibit the lowest levels of tree canopy cover and could potentially encounter dual challenges related to community needs, as indicated by their relatively high CNI scores.
  • Hartlepool, Bradford, and Burnley also have insufficient tree cover and a relatively large proportion of neighbourhoods that fall within the most deprived 10% nationally. 
  • Hartlepool and Burnley also score highly on the Community Needs Index.
Local AuthorityTree canopy cover %% neighbourhoods in most deprived 10% nationally  CNI score
South Holland2.20%99.094
Boston2.33%99.094
Fenland2.34%108.789
Richmondshire4.30%38.166
City of London4.70%0
Craven4.80%29.782
North Kesteven50%67.18
East Cambridgeshire5.20%47.356
Thanet5.220%107.863
Barrow-in-Furness5.218%82.439
Calderdale5.316%67.505
Eden5.40%31.782
Rossendale5.412%77.917
East Riding of Yorkshire5.45%70.187
East Lindsey5.412%61.747
Hartlepool5.738%120.472
Kirklees5.810%80.162
Fylde5.92%80.41
Burnley625%95.765
Bradford6.228%74.174

Other relevant data?

The tree cover indicator compliments a number of other indicators within Local Insight to build a picture of living environment:

  • Greenspace coverage, total
  • Greenspace coverage, public parks and gardens
  • Community Needs Index: Civic Assets score
  • Community Needs Index: Community Needs score
  • Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2019 Rank
  • Neighbourhood Flood Vulnerability Index (NFVI)
  • Total carbon footprint per person (kg)
  • IoD 2019 Air quality indicator

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