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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Spaced Out

Julie MacDonald, GiGL Open Spaces Project Officer

Along with providing information on species and habitats, GiGL also holds a great deal of information on Greater London’s open spaces. We are currently working to enhance the coverage, quality and quantity of open space information available and produce a comprehensive resource on the capital’s open spaces.

We define open space as undeveloped land which has or has potential for amenity value. The value of an open space could derive from its historical, cultural or visual interest, or from the enjoyment of facilities which it provides. It includes both public and private spaces, but excludes private gardens.

Whether a park or common, a playing field or a golf course, an allotments or a civic square, open spaces are important to the lives of London’s residents. They are key features within the capital, providing space for relaxation, sport and recreation, aiding the mitigation of climate change and even boosting the economy of their local areas. As the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment state in their recent report, ‘Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health’, 2010, ’Access to decent green space, alongside housing, health and education, is a basic requirement for a good quality of life’..

The data we currently hold on open spaces comes from two sources. The primary resource is the Greater London Authority  survey which was completed a borough at a time until 2009. However, open space data was only formally collected as part of this survey from 2001, and not extensively until 2004, meaning that the coverage and quality of these data is not spread evenly across the boroughs. The second data source is from 2008, when the GLA contracted GiGL to investigate what open space information was held by the boroughs. Through this project we gained further information about  open spaces in two boroughs.

We gain far greater accuracy and coverage when we combine information from both sources than when we use these sources independently. Consequently, we have formulated a consistent methodology in order to form a single, reliable, transparent data set of London’s open spaces.

The data set will accurately show the locations of different types of open space classified according to the typology of Planning Policy Guidance 17: Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation. This categorises open spaces as:

  • parks and gardens,
  • natural and semi-natural urban green spaces,
  • green corridors,
  • outdoor sports facilities,
  • amenity greenspace,
  • provision for children and teenagers,
  • allotments,
  • community gardens, and city (urban) farms,
  • cemeteries and churchyards,
  • accessible countryside in urban fringe areas, and
  • civic spaces.

For each area GiGL will also provide further detail on land use. For example, PPG17 ‘outdoor sports facilities’ are subdivided into ‘recreation ground’, ‘playing fields’, ‘golf course’ and ‘other recreational’, documenting the multifunctional nature of London’s open spaces.

The dataset will do more than just show the location of open spaces. It may also detail facilities, ownership, public access, and any special designations that apply, to the site including nature conservation designations and those applicable to the planning process. It will show other information of interest such as which parks have gained a Green Flag Award.

GiGL’s open space dataset will be crucial in helping protect and enhance the capital’s open spaces.  It will provide a definitive source of information for the London Public Open Space Hierarchy which designates publicly accessible open spaces according to their size, facilities and use. We are already working to accurately calculate areas deficient in access to public open space and specific facilities; analysing the distance along roads and paths from open space access points to people’s homes and workplaces.

Our open space dataset also provides the evidence base behind the ‘All London Green Grid’, the strategic green infrastructure project spanning the entire capital. This will be vital in helping plan and manage smaller scale green infrastructure projects across the city.

Knowledge about the current supply of open spaces is critical for their effective and efficient management. Our information resource will allow accurate analysis of the relationship between open spaces and social, economic and environmental indicators in London.

GiGL hope to work with the London boroughs to ensure that the GIS data accurately reflect what is on the ground. In time we hope to form good working relationships with borough officers so that the open space information is constantly updated as open spaces, and the facilities within them, are lost and gained.

If you would like access to our information on open spaces, have any projects you would like us to help you with or have any ideas for our information resource, please contact

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