Exeter revealed as Britain’s ‘greenest’ urban city centre in new study

Researchers analysed 68 urban city centres across England, Scotland and Wales.

The High Street in Exeter City Centre
The High Street in Exeter City Centre

Exeter has the “greenest” urban city centre in Britain, according to new research based on tree cover, vegetation, and the presence of parks.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield analysed the green attributes of urban city centres across England, Scotland and Wales and ranked them on greenness.

The second spot was taken by Islington, followed by Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge.

Meanwhile, Glasgow was ranked the least green urban city centre, with Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Leeds, making up the bottom five.

The researchers said their findings, published in Plos One, “reveal a clear divide between the urban city centres” with the greenest ones located in the South of England, while the lowest scoring ones are ex-industrial cities in the North of Great Britain.

Dr Paul Brindley, senior author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s department of landscape architecture, said: “By 2050 nearly 70% of the world’s population are projected to be living in towns and cities.

“Green spaces have been proven time and again to boost people’s wellbeing and are essential to biodiversity, but nobody has ever looked at how green our city centres are, despite the amount of time individuals spend in them on a daily basis.

“The fact that all five of the greenest city centres are in the South of England, whilst the five city centres with the least green attributes are in the North of Great Britain, clearly highlights the need to urgently improve the greenness of city centres at the bottom of the list, and to ensure that action is taken by local authorities to close the gap.”

For the study, the researchers ranked 68 municipalities in Great Britain with populations of at least 100,000.

To determine the presence of vegetation, the researchers used a measure known as the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), using satellite observations of light absorption and reflection to measure vegetation cover in a given area.

The team also looked at tree cover and presence of green spaces in the city centres.

Meanwhile, they also said that while Sheffield is renowned as the UK’s greenest city overall – with more trees per person than any city in Europe – its city centre lacks green space due to its industrial heritage.

Dr Brindley added: “This highlights why the study is so important and the vital need to identify green space inequalities even in the least obvious places and promote measures to address them.

“For example, work is already being done in Sheffield’s city centre to bring it in line with the leafy suburbs and vast parks just a short walk away from the heart of the city which make it the greenest overall in the UK.”

Top 10 “greenest” urban city centres in Great Britain:

1. Exeter

2. Islington

3. Bristol

4. Bournemouth

5. Cambridge

6. Chelsea

7. Ealing

8. Sutton Coldfield

9. Richmond

10. Oxford

10 of the least “green” urban city centres in Great Britain:

1. Glasgow

2. Leeds

3. Liverpool

4. Sheffield

5. Middlesborough

6. Basildon

7. Manchester

8. Cardiff

9. Huddersfield

10. Worthing

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