Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | June 29, 2012

The great myth of urban Britain? the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) report produces some interesting findings

Writing on the BBC News website yesterday Mark Easton, Home editor, asks some very interesting questions in light of a recent UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) report on the level of urbanisation in the UK. In findings that will be surprising to most, the report estimates that only “6.8% of the UK’s land area is now classified as urban”. It should also be noted that they include all rural development and roads as “urban” in their assessment! Broken down across the UK the urban landscape comprises 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales.The report breaks this down further and suggests that over half the land classed as urban is in fact greenspace (54% in England), comprising of sports fields, urban parklands, allotments etc. The report goes on to suggest that for England “78.6% of urban areas is designated as natural rather than built” when one includes domestic gardens, roadside verges, canals, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. This then leaves only 2.27% of the English landscape actually being built on, a staggering figure which runs contrary to all popular perceptions of the United Kingdom as possessing largely over-urbanised, post-industrial landscapes.

I should raise a note of caution to this rather optimistic assessment. Just because a landscape appears to be green and not “built on” does not mean that it is natural (untouched by human activity) and able to support a viable, healthy ecosystem. Bernie Krause’s work on animal soundscapes and healthy biodiversities within landscape should inform our understanding that just because there is a presence of plant life does not automatically mean that the range of appropriate animal life is there too.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) report can be accessed here.


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