Glossary of Terms

Accessible Greenspace
Accessible Greenspace is defined as a greenspace that is specifically provided FOR public access, or one to which the public would usually expect to access (such as a cemetery), or one over which there is a public RIGHT to open access, and deemed likely to be accessible to the public at any reasonable time, free to entry and available for a range of pastimes (although some sites may be closed to the public overnight and there may be fees for parking a vehicle). Accessible greenspaces are available to all, meaning that every reasonable effort is made to comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2020. There are a range of types of greenspaces included within the definition of publicly accessible greenspace (listed under Green Infrastructure). The GI Mapping Database User Guide sets out how Accessible Greenspace has been interpreted in developing the GI Mapping.
Accessible Greenspace Standard (AGS)
Natural England has updated the original Accessible Natural Green Space Standard (ANGSt, developed by English Nature,) to create the new Accessible Greenspace Standard (AGS), which is one of the 5 Headline GI Standards included in the GI Framework- Principles and Standards for England. The Accessible Greenspace Standard covers a broader range of greenspace than the original ANGSt, while retaining a focus on accessible natural greenspace. It measures six categories of publicly accessible greenspace of increasing size and distance from home. It also includes criteria covering greenspace capacity, quality and accessibility for all. Please see the Headline GI Standards Summary for details.
Accessible Natural Greenspace
Greenspaces meeting the definitions of accessible greenspace and natural greenspace. The GI Mapping Database User Guide sets out how Accessible Natural Greenspace has been interpreted in developing the GI Mapping.
Accessible Natural Greenspace Standard (ANGSt)
The Accessible Natural Greenspace Standard (ANGSt) was originally developed by English Nature, but has subsequently been revised by Natural England to create the new Accessible Greenspace Standard (AGS) that is included in the GI Framework. (Please see explanation under Accessible Greenspace Standard).
Ancient Woodland
Ancient woodland is defined as an area of land where there has been a continuous cover of trees since 1600. Many have developed irreplaceable, complex ecosystems.
Biodiversity Net Gain
Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development and/or land management that leaves nature in a measurably better state. The Environment Act 2021 requires that new development delivers a minimum 10% increase in biodiversity, compared to the level before. Biodiversity Net Gain Brochure
An area of land defined by its topographic watershed, including streams, rivers, wetlands and lakes, from which rainfall collects flows into a defined outlet such as a river mouth, estuary, tributary confluence or lake.
Climate change adaptation
The actions taken to manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change define Climate change adaptation as the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. Adaptation seeks to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.
Climate change mitigation
Refers to efforts to cut or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases, limiting the magnitude of future warming. It may also encompass attempts to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Climate change resilience
Is the ability/capacity of places, communities and individuals to thrive in the face of multiple risks, uncertainty and threats posed by climate change. Climate resilience requires mitigation and adaptation actions that must be combined to tackle the current and future impacts of climate change.
Community cohesion
The "glue" that holds a community together such as a sense of belonging to an area which can translate to common goals and objectives for its improvement.
Ecological network
Habitats and species and the way that they interact and connect, often but not always in corridors of linked sites.
Ecosystem Services
Ecosystem services are the benefits to people provided by nature including:
  • provisioning services (e.g. food, water, wood, construction materials)
  • regulating services (e.g. water quality, flood regulation, erosion protection, carbon storage, noise reduction, air quality regulation, cooling and shading)
  • supporting services (e.g. habitats, thriving plants and wildlife, pollination)
  • cultural services (e.g. access to nature, sense of place, aesthetic value, recreation and education)
Government's 25 Year Environment Plan
'A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment', sets out what Government will do to improve the environment, within a generation.
Green infrastructure
A network of multi-functional green and blue spaces and other natural features, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental, economic, health and wellbeing benefits for nature, climate, local and wider communities and prosperity. (National Planning Policy Framework 2021).
It includes both green and blue infrastructure such as:
  • Parks and Gardens – urban parks, country and regional parks, formal gardens
  • Amenity Greenspace – informal recreation spaces, housing greenspaces, domestic gardens, village greens, urban commons, other incidental space
  • Natural and semi-natural urban greenspaces - woodland and scrub, grassland, heath or moor, wetlands, open and running water, wastelands and disturbed ground
  • Green corridors – rivers and canals including their banks, road and rail corridors, green bridges, field margins, cycling routes, pedestrian paths, and rights of way
  • Vegetated sustainable drainage systems, SuDS, (please see definition of SuDs later in this glossary). Includes: green roofs, blue roofs, rainwater harvesting and smart controls, downpipe disconnection planters, rain gardens and biofiltration strips, swales, ponds, detention basins
  • Features for species such as bird and bat boxes, swift bricks and hedgehog holes
  • Other - street trees, allotments, community gardens and orchards, private gardens, city farms, green walls, cemeteries and churchyards
Greening towns and cities
Increasing and enhancing urban nature and greenspaces; including wider environmental improvements e.g. reducing pollution and positive environmental behaviours such as recycling and public transport etc.
There are many definitions of greenspace in use. The definition of greenspace for the GI Framework is as follows:
  • Greenspace is an area of vegetation that is set within a landscape or townscape. Greenspace can include blue space (i.e. lakes, rivers and wetlands), and may include built environment features.
  • Greenspace is not necessarily accessible to the public e.g. greenspaces include allotments (that are normally locked and only accessible to key holders), and golf courses (which may require club membership and or payment of a fee to access). Such greenspace has a significant role to play in the overall provision of greenspaces for recreation and enjoyment.
  • High quality greenspace is designed and managed to deliver its intended functions and to meet defined needs. Greenspace may be urban or rural.
Greenspace Quality
Meeting the needs and expectations of both the staff and users of a site and the wider community and neighbourhood. Such sites are visually stimulating and attractive, safe and welcoming to all sections of society, managed and maintained to the highest standards of sustainability, and provide an enjoyable and inspirational visitor experience. The Green Flag Award is the nationally accepted standard for parks and greenspaces, supported by Natural England.
Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)
The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is the official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in England. It is used by the Office for National Statistics and is the most widely used of the Indices of Deprivation.
Living network
this term reflects a systemic understanding that networks are the basic pattern of organisation of all living systems. Ecosystems are understood in terms of food webs (i.e. networks of organisms); organisms are networks of cells, organs and organ systems; and cells are networks of molecules. Living networks have shown that their key characteristic is that they are self-generating. The planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system.
Local Authority (LA)
A Local authority is an organisation performing the services of local government. The structure of local government varies from area to area in England. In some areas there are two layers or tiers: a District, Borough or City Council as the lower tier. In other areas there is just a single tier made up of a ' Unitary Authority '.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs)
Local Nature Reserves are usually declared (designated) by local councils but parish and town councils can also declare LNRs if they have the powers to do so delegated to them. LNRs can be large or small and be created where there are wildlife or geological features that are of special local interest. They must have a management plan. LNRs are intended for people and wildlife and used for purposes such as habitat management, quiet recreation, study and to interact with nature and enjoy it.
Lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs)
LSOAs (Lower layer Super Output Areas) are small geographic areas designed to be of a similar population size, with an average of approximately 1,500 residents or 650 households. There are 32,844 Lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England. They were produced by the Office for National Statistics for the reporting of small area statistics e.g. relating to the Census.
Middle layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs)
Middle layer Super Output Areas (MSOA) are a geographic area designed for the reporting of small area statistics in England and Wales. Middle Layer Super Output Areas are built from groups of contiguous Lower Layer Super Output Areas. The minimum population is 5000 and the mean is 7200.
The ability to perform more than one function at the same time e.g. for nature, health and wellbeing, climate and prospering communities. In terms of green infrastructure this can mean providing opportunities for recreation whilst delivering biodiversity, contributing to flood risk management, and reducing urban heat stress through shading and cooler greenspaces.
National Character Area
A National Character Area (NCA) is a natural subdivision of England based on a combination of landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity and economic activity. There are 159 National Character Areas and they follow natural, rather than administrative, boundaries.
National Nature Reserves
NNRs are managed for wildlife by the statutory nature conservation bodies, or other approved bodies. There are around 400 NNRs across the UK. There is a presumption against development on NNRs.
Natural capital
The elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value for people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions. Natural capital assets are stock of nature which provides ecosystem services and benefits to people.
Natural features
Can refer to a broad range of different types of greenspaces and green routes, street trees, green roofs etc.
Natural filtration
Water filtration is the process of removing or reducing the concentration of particulate matter, including suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, and fungi, as well as other undesirable chemical and biological contaminants from water to produce safe and clean water for a specific purpose, such as drinking.
Natural Greenspace
Places where human control and activities are not intensive so that a feeling of naturalness is allowed to predominate. Natural and semi-natural greenspace exists as a distinct typology but also as discrete areas within the majority of other greenspace typologies. The GI Mapping User Guide sets out how natural greenspace has been interpreted in the GI Mapping.
Natural water cycle
Describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the earth using natural rather than man made routes and processes.
Nature connections
Describes our sense of relationship with the natural world and our emotional relationship and our sense of place within it. Activities that engage our senses, emotions, compassion, appreciation of beauty and that create personal meaning have all been identified as pathways to develop nature connectedness.
Nature connectedness
Is our contact with nature, which is typically measured through how frequently we visit nature or for how long.
Nature Recovery
Halting and reversing the loss of species and habitats; and enhancing sites that are designated for nature conservation and other wildlife-rich places. Newly created and restored wildlife-rich habitats, corridors and stepping-stones will benefit nature recovery by helping wildlife populations to grow and move.
Noise pollution
Harmful or annoying levels of noise. Sound only becomes noise (often defined as "unwanted sound") when it exists in the wrong place or at the wrong time such that it causes or contributes to some harmful or otherwise unwanted effect, like annoyance or sleep disturbance. Unlike many other pollutants, noise pollution depends not just on the physical aspects of the sound itself, but also the human and other species' reaction to it.
Open Space
Open Space is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as land laid out as a public garden, or used for the purposes of public recreation, or land which is a disused burial ground. Open space can include greenspaces and civic spaces. Civic Spaces are hard surfaced areas designed for pedestrians, e.g. for community events.
Output Areas
An Output Area is a geographic area built from clusters of adjacent unit postcodes in the United Kingdom and are the base unit for Census data releases. Due to their smaller size, Output Areas allow for a finer resolution of data analysis.
Place-making is 'the process we use to shape our public spaces and buildings. Rooted in community-based participation, place-making involves planning, design, and management. It brings together diverse people (including professionals, elected officials, local groups, residents, and businesses) to improve a community's cultural, economic, social and environmental situation.' (Historic England, Places Strategy, July 2018).
Public Rights of Way (PRoW)
Public rights of way allow the public to walk, or sometimes ride, cycle or drive, along specific routes over land which belongs to someone else – the land itself is often privately owned. The public have a legal right to cross the land along a specific route.
Significant wetlands for wildlife, especially waterfowl, are designated as Ramsar sites, including around 70 in England. They are protected under the International Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, which was established in the Iranian town of Ramsar in 1971. Ramsar sites have the same legal protection as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas for Conservation.
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are nationally important sites for wildlife and geology. There are more than 4,000 in England, identified and protected by Natural England. They are managed by more than 26,000 owners and occupiers and cover about 8% of the country. They have legal protection from damaging forms of management and development.
Small Area Mental Health Index (SAMHI)
The SAMHI is a composite annual measure of population mental health for each Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) in England. The SAMHI combines data on mental health from multiple sources into a single index.
Special Area for Conservation (SAC)
Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) protect sites of importance for wildlife other than birds. They were originally established under the 1992 European Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats.
Special Protection Area (SPAs)
Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are created to protect threatened or vulnerable bird species. They were established under the 1979 European Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Governments are required to take appropriate steps to avoid pollution or deterioration of SPAs, or any significant disturbance affecting the birds.
Taking care of the land
Sustainable Drainage Systems, SuDS
Sustainable drainage systems slow the rate of surface water run-off and improve infiltration, by mimicking natural drainage in both rural and urban areas. This reduces the risk of "flash-flooding" which occurs when rainwater rapidly flows into the public sewerage and drainage systems. SuDS use natural features wherever possible.
Urban means belonging to, or relating to, a city or town. The following Census definitions have been used to define urban for the GI Framework in terms of Geographic Information System information: i.e. the LSOA rural-urban classification dataset (Census 2011) has been used including the following RUC 2011 classifications:
  • Urban Major Conurbation
  • Urban Minor Conurbation
  • Urban City and Town
This created an Urban Mapping Domain of about 25,000 km2 across England (approximately 20% of the country).
Urban heat stress
The densely-populated urban landscape of tarmac, brick, metal and dark rooftops soaks up energy from sunlight. This leads to an "urban heat island" – where cities experience higher-than-normal heat temperatures, as compared to surrounding areas.
Water Framework Directive (WFD)
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) introduced an integrated approach to water protection, improvement and sustainable use. Unlike the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, which apply only to designated sites, it applies to all water bodies including those that are man-made.
'Working with natural processes'
Taking action by protecting, restoring or emulating natural processes.