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Parks and Spaces

A directory of British public open spaces

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About the Parks and Spaces website

The main aim of the Parks and Spaces website is to provide a reasonably comprehensive listing of named public open spaces, such as parks, recreation grounds, squares etc, in Great Britain.

I've been wanting to do a website on this topic for a while, but always came up against the lack of any suitable re-usable database of sites. The national heritage organisations (English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw) maintain lists of parks and gardens or particular importance, but these are selected primarily for their historic or design significance rather than public accessibility. The Parks and Gardens Data Services charity also maintains a list of, as the name suggests, parks and gardens, but like the heritage lists (on which much of it is based), it's primarily focussed on parks and gardens that are historically or aboriculturally significant. And neither of them include paved open spaces such as town squares.

However, some experimentation with data from Open Street Map (which I'd originally done some work with on an entirely different project) suggested that this might be a suitable source. It has the advantages of comprehensiveness (unlike the heritage organisations, the data is UK-wide), and doesn't make any distinction between open spaces that are in some way "important" and those that are not. And, being open source data, it's available for re-use in projects like this one.

The Open Streetmap data isn't perfect, and zooming in on the maps will show several parks and public spaces that haven't been included. In time, I aim to add the facility to add data directly to this site rather than relying on OSM as a source. But that's a feature for phase 2 of the project!

Data Sources and Methodology

The primary source of data is Open Streetmap. To get a list of parks and open spaces, I've taken the full XML data for Great Britain and then extracted from it any entry (what OSM calls a "way") which is tagged in a way which suggests that it is a public open space. For green spaces (eg, parks and gardens), that means anything which has a key of "leisure" or "landuse" and a tag value of "park", "garden", "common", "village_green", "recreation_ground" or "playground". For paved spaces (squares, etc), that means anything tagged as "highway:pedestrian" and "area:yes".

Having extracted all the possible locations, I've then discarded those which fall into these categories:

  • Have a common generic name (such as "Children's Playground").
  • Have a name containing the word "school" or "club", as these are likely not to be public.
  • Don't have a name at all. The exception to this is for those tagged as 'village_green' and are located in civil parishes (ie, not within major urban areas). For these, I have assigned a name of "Village Green" and included them, as most village greens don't have a name other than that of their village.

To obtain geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) of each open space, I've taken the "nodes" from the OSM data associated with each entry (which, together, map the boundaries of the space) and then averaged them to find a mean centre point.

Administrative location data (local authority names, etc) is based on data from MapIt. Local authority structure in the UK is quite complex, so, for the purposes of this website I've disregarded the difference between county councils, unitary authorities, etc and used a geographic hierarchy based on four levels: country, county (which, for the purposes of this website, means the ceremonial counties), local authority (which may be either a district council, a unitary authority, a metropolitan district or a London borough) and locality (which is either a civil parish, a local authority ward or a town/city).

In the long run, I'm hoping to build up a library of photographs, together with descriptions of each space, from user contributions. In the meantime, to get things started, I've used snippets of the heritage organisation descriptions where available, and seeded the photo library with selected Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr.

This is still a work in progress, and may well change significantly as it develops. But I hope it will be a useful resource for lovers of public open space.

Credits

ParksAndSpaces.co.uk is a Good Stuff website. Programming is by Mark Goodge.

Copyright and Re-use

All original content on this site not derived from any other source is copyright © Mark Goodge and is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence.

Geeky Stuff

For those that care abut such things, this site is built on an open source platform using Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL. The underlying design is based on a lightweight object-oriented codebase utilising Savant3 as a templating framework.