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Space for People

As a result of the information gathered on accessible woodland, the Woodland Trust has undertaken a major analysis of woodland access provision and deficit across the UK. This project, named “Space for People”, has used the accessible woodland data from the Woods for People project to develop targets for increasing woodland access.

The Space for People analysis proposes a Woodland Access Standard for people to have access to a woodland of an adequate size near to where they live. The report estimates the proportion of the population with access to nearby woods, the extent to which this could be increased by improving access and the amount of new woodland that would have to be created to give the rest of the population this level of access. Three full reports have been published so far, giving data for 2004, 2009, 2012 and 2016. The report associated with 2016 data is available here:

In 2016 around one fifth (21%) of the UK population lived within 500 metres of an accessible wood1 of 2 hectares or more and almost three quarters of the UK population (73%) lived within 4 kilometres of a larger accessible wood (of 20 hectares or more) (Table 6.10). If inaccessible woodlands1 had been open to the public in 2016 then an additional 34% of the UK population would have had access to woodland of 2 hectares or more within 500 m of where they live and a further 15% of the UK population would have access to woodland of 20 hectares or more within 4 km of where they live (see Space for People: Targeting action for woodland access, Woodland Trust, May 2017).

Table 6.10 Space for People: Publicly accessible woodland1

% of population with access to: England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
per cent
2 ha or more wood within 500 metres
2004 10.2 15.7 15.3 7.5 10.8
2009 14.5 17.4 27.8 7.2 15.6
2012 16.8 22.8 32.2 7.2 18.2
2016 18.0 23.6 32.4 10.3 21.1
20 ha or more wood within 4 km
2004 55.2 72.3 54.4 50.3 55.8
2009 63.0 76.7 83.0 40.2 64.8
2012 65.8 80.8 86.9 40.2 67.6
2016 67.9 80.6 86.4 56.1 72.8

Source: Space for People – Targeting action for woodland access (Woodland Trust, 2010, 2015, 2017).

1. Accessible woodland: is defined by the Woodland Trust as ‘any site that is permissively accessible to the public for recreational purposes’.  This includes sites with unrestricted open access and restricted, but permissive, access (e.g. fee-payable, fixed-hours access).  The definition does not include woods served only by public rights of way.  For further information on the definition refer to the source.

These figures are outside the scope of National Statistics. For further information see the Sources chapter.

Additional resources

Sources chapter: Recreation

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