Urban green spaces

Parks are highly valuable to an urban community due to the benefits they provide. The community resources (Hughey et al., 2016) that can be offered in a green space mean that the use and presence of them are important to the structure of an urban area (Gupta et al., 2012). This is especially true where the landscape is greatly built up, both in height and density of the infrastructure.

Urban areas are becoming increasingly more populated as people migrate into cities and worldwide population grows (Campbell, 1996). There is therefore a need for increased focus on sustainability strategies within cities (United Nations, 2015). International efforts regarding the maintenance of biodiversity centre on large untouched ecosystems (Chiesura, 2004). However, urban green spaces not only provide a natural environment to support urban biodiversity and ecosystem services, but they also have many social benefits.

Studies have shown that green spaces provide a wide variety and scale of benefits. Increased exposure to green spaces can lead to improvements in both mental and physical health. This is through, for example, providing a quality space for exercise (Kessel et al., 2009). A study by Coombes, Jones & Hillsdon (2010) has linked this to a decreased likelihood of obesity in the surrounding neighbourhood; this therefore has the potential to relieve some of the pressures on healthcare. Good access to green space is strongly linked to low levels of health inequalities (Mitchell & Popham, 2008). It is furthermore argued that the provision and access to good quality green space is a fundamental right (Thompson, 2002). Green spaces have also been found to increase feelings of social safety (Maas et al., 2009). This was despite the stereotype of green and vegetated areas providing an area of concealment for criminal activity. Finally, one of the key benefits that green spaces provide is the support to the natural environment. Improvements in urban ecological systems not only promote biodiversity (Barbosa et al., 2007) but add to the aesthetic value of an area and can attract people to visit (Ball et al., 2001).

The importance of green spaces in urban areas is becoming increasingly understood, however creating more green space in cities is likely to be difficult due to the issue of space (Gupta et al., 2012). Green space loss due to the reuse of derelict land and residential development has been recorded (Pauleit, Ennos & Golding, 2005) in major cities in the United Kingdom (UK). This is putting increasing pressure, not just on green space (Barbosa et al., 2007), but also on existing infrastructure and facilities, such as transport networks. Maintaining and improving access to green spaces, as well as reducing the loss of it to other development, is important in limiting the pressures from an increasing population.

City development around universities

The student population and purpose built accommodations are expanding at an enormous rate across the UK, such as within the city of Southampton (ONS, 2016; Southampton City Council, 2018). The impact of this on services and sustainability needs to be addressed to guide future development.

The expansion of higher education (Smith, 2009), both economically and in the number of institutes, are the key reasons for the increase in student numbers. This phenomenon has resulted in some urban areas seeing a larger temporary student population than permanent population (Munro and Livingston, 2012). With increasing numbers of a seasonal population, structure and services of a city can be impacted. However, there is some potential for students and communities working together for a better future (Munro, Turok & Livingston, 2009). Due to the fact that the student demographic makes up a large number of the young population in university cities, they can contribute to the development of certain areas and sectors (such as the public sector), as well as generating an overall positive contribution to a city's economy (Chatterton, 1999; Chatterton, 2000).

On the other hand, the abundance of student accommodation and a growing student population in some cities is having an impact on sustainability strategies. According to Smith (2008), a paradox is forming where cities increasingly focus on sustainability initiatives but are also allowing for the promotion and expansion of higher education, without considering the impacts. There is therefore a need to pair higher education expansion and sustainability in future city development plans.

Students require many types of on site and local facilities. Green spaces can provide provision for many of these services, for example, an area to carry out sports (Davies, Preston & Wilson, 1992). Students are considered to have a large amount of free time which means they also have a large demand for cultural goods and services to fill their time (Chatterton, 2000). This also contributes to the need and importance of green space access and the provision of services.

There has been a lack of research on the effects of spatially concentrated students on urban systems (Smith, 2009). Urban systems is a term that includes the major services and activities that occur in a city, such as transport, health services, housing, and schools. Green spaces link to this as they can facilitate many of these services. Issues such as litter, noise, and parking are also factors that need to be considered and addressed when managing a student population (Munro & Livingston, 2012).

The city of Southampton and its green spaces

Southampton City Council puts great value on its green spaces, managed through its Green Space Strategy (Southampton City Council, 2008). The strategy identifies the contribution of natural areas to the economy, health and wellbeing, biodiversity, community cohesion, and improvements in air quality. This highlights the cross–sector need to preserve green spaces. Quantity and quality are particular areas of interest in terms of Southampton's parks. The city currently manages its green spaces through the establishment of a standard that works to improve quality, quantity, and access.

Research into types of green spaces and the need for them has been increasing (Kessel et al., 2009; Peschardt, Schipperijn & Stigsdotter, 2012). However there are still a lot of gaps in the research (Bell, Montarzino & Travlou, 2007), with a particular need to better understand populations that lack access to green space, as well as analysis of the links between increasing student numbers and the impact they are having on green space management. Students, as a unique group of people, are becoming a prominent part of many urban populations, but are underrepresented in the literature. Addressing and researching this topic could help aid decisions regarding the design and location of new accommodation being constructed, and promote equal access to green spaces. Research into the specific pressures of students on green space is needed. Analysis regarding how students' value, use, and access green space could help inform city planners. Information about green spaces in relation to the issues that may have been noticed by students, as a large section of Southampton's population, could help to inform the council and other city development decision makers.

The first aim of this study was to analyse the views of students living in purpose built accommodation regarding Southampton's green spaces. The second aim of this study was to look into student accessibility to green space across Southampton and see if there is a connection between location and student views. The aims of this research were delivered through a number of objectives. Firstly, a face to face survey in student accommodation across Southampton took place. The survey included questions regarding reasons why and how students use and access green space. As well as this, students were asked about what they value about green spaces and any issues they have perceived. Statistical tests were used to identify significant differences within questions and between halls. Then, to aid this survey and to offer comparisons, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysis in the form of network and spatial analysis were carried out. This provides insight into the walkability of Southampton in relation to how far students will walk to access green spaces and their corresponding benefits.


Study site

Southampton is situated in the county of Hampshire in the South of England, UK. The city currently has a population of 254,275, situated within an area covering 51.82 km2. Within Southampton there are two major universities: University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University. The 2011 census (ONS, 2011) found there to be a high percentage of young people aged 20–24 (12.64%) and especially between the age ranges of 15–19 and 20–24 (19.97%). This combined bracket encompasses the age ranges 19–22 year olds that are the typical start and finishing ages of university students in the UK (ONS, 2016).


Surveys were carried out across the six main halls of residence for the University of Southampton (Archers Road, City Gateway, Glen Eyre, Highfield, Mayflower, and Wessex Lane). Figure 1 shows the location of the six halls across the city. The purpose of the survey was to gather students' views on their uses, access to, and benefits they gain from green spaces. The surveys were carried out using hand–held tablet devices around the six hall complexes and each respondent was given a short introduction before they began answering questions. Every respondent was a current student at the University of Southampton. Statistical analysis was completed on SPSS statistical software (IBM, 2016).

Figure 1: Location of halls of residence where surveys were carried out (Ordnance Survey, 2017c).

The survey was mainly based on a number of closed questions regarding green spaces. Past studies aided the decisions behind the wording and choices of questions and answers. This was in terms of the motives and benefits of going to green spaces (Chiesura, 2004; Lee & Maheswaran, 2011; Schipperijn, et al., 2010), as well as the different types of green spaces (Forest Research, 2010). The study got ethical clearance (Ethics Number 30182) in November 2017 by the University of Southampton's Ethics and Research Governance Online (ERGO) and surveys were carried out in November and December 2017. The design of the survey can be found in Appendix 1.

The first section of the survey asked about student accessibility to green space. Firstly they were asked how often they would visit a green space. Then they were presented with a list of benefits (fresh air, relax, walking, enjoying nature, events, organised sports, and meeting place) they could gain from green spaces and asked to indicate how much time (walking) they would be willing to travel to reach such benefit. Respondents were then asked to answer whether they agreed or disagreed that there were enough green spaces and whether they were easily accessible. Finally, students were asked about the type of transport they would take (bike, bus, car, train, and walk). Chi square tests were carried out on the Likert scale (Likert, 1932) and grouped question answers and a Kruskal Wallis test was carried out to compare Likert scales answers between halls. A two–way crossed analysis of variance (ANOVA) with replication was used to compare the different times chosen to reach each benefit between the different halls.

The second section of the survey looked into how students valued different green spaces and issues regarding green space. Firstly, respondents were asked to indicate how much they valued five different types of green space (formal parks, recreational grounds, housing green space, highway green space, and natural green space). Next, they were asked whether green spaces were too busy. Finally, the respondents were asked to rank some of the main reasons they would not visit a green space (weather, accessibility, litter, anti–social behaviour, air quality, and noise), as well as asking them an open question regarding what general issues they think need to be addressed in Southampton's green spaces. Chi square tests were used to analyse the Likert scale questions and a Kruskal Wallis test was used to compare answers between halls.

At the end of the survey, students were asked to provide personal details such as gender, age, and ethnic group which were used to aid statistical analysis and comparisons. This section was not compulsory.

GIS analysis

Network analysis is a method of calculating distances using network layers. It has been used in numerous studies to analyse green space accessibility and connectivity (Comber, Brunsdon & Green, 2008; Dai, 2011; Rudd, Vala & Schaefer, 2002). In this analysis, roads and paths (Ordnance Survey, 2017b; Ordnance Survey, 2016) were combined to create a network of walkable routes in Southampton. A green space layer (Ordnance Survey, 2017a) was also used and halls were digitised from maps provided by the council (Southampton City Council, 2017). The network analysis tool on ArcGIS (ESRI, 2016) was then used to create maps of the service areas of the six halls with 5, 10, 20, 40, and 60 minute walk boundaries. This corresponded to the response times in the survey and was calculated based on an average walking speed of 1.2 m/s (Crabtree, Lodge & Emmerson, 2014). This showed the proximity of green spaces as well as providing a visualisation of the main parks that were servicing the halls.

Following on from the creation of the maps, green spaces within close proximity (20 minute walk) to each hall were further analysed. Network analysis routes were determined and time taken to walk was calculated. For this analysis, only publicly accessible green spaces were included as the analysis was of physical accessibility rather than assessing the visual benefits which may be gained by the sight of private green space. The area of the park was also measured.

Finally, spatial distributions were calculated for the student accommodation populations and green spaces. The majority of the halls had some amount of green space on site, which was also measured. Calculations of percentage green space and the ratio of green space per person (green space density) were carried out.


Survey population

Table 1: Survey population characteristics (n = 287).


Number surveyed

Percentage of hall population

Male (%)

Female (%)

18–21 years old


22–25 years old


30+ years old (%)

Archers Road








City Gateway








Glen Eyre
























Wessex Lane








A total of 290 surveys were completed across the six main halls of residence at the University of Southampton. The majority of those sampled in halls lived in university owned accommodation (Table 1), however there was a small number that were in private rented (n = 3). The major ethnic group of the population was British (46%), with the next most populous groups being Chinese (14%), other white backgrounds (12%), other Asian backgrounds (8%) and finally all other groups (19%). These groupings were chosen based on the overall ethnic mix of the university at the time. There was an even divide between genders in total, however some halls had a higher percentage of respondents of one gender. Some respondents preferred not to give their gender or ethnic group.

Green space accessibility

During the survey, respondents were asked about their uses and access to Southampton's green spaces. The majority of students said that they would visit a green space at least once a week (Chi square test, p < 0.001). The respondents answered positively to the following statements regarding whether there are currently enough green spaces in Southampton (Chi square test, p < 0.001) and whether green spaces were easily accessible to them (Chi square test, p < 0.001).

Of the five main methods of transport that are available to students, walking was the most popular, with 81% of respondents choosing to walk to reach a green space, compared to only 39% who would cycle and 26% who would choose to drive. A large number of respondents also chose to take the bus (72%) as a means of getting to a green space. Students living in university halls are given a bus pass; this may have influenced the result.

The perceived value of green spaces

Students were asked to assign a value between 1 (low) and 5 (high) to different types of green spaces within Southampton. The lowest valued type was highway green space, with a mean and standard deviation of 2.91 ± 1.15 and the highest valued green space was natural green space (4.29 ± 0.88). Recreational grounds (3.71 ± 0.96), housing green space (3.50 ± 1.09), and formal parks (3.77 ± 0.99) all averaged in between. Each response produced significantly different results (Chi square test, p < 0.001).

Table 2: Ranking results for issues regarding green spaces in Southampton, where 1 is the highest rank importance.


Mean ranking

Standard deviation

Chi square test (p)





Air Quality




Anti–social Behaviour
















The responses to the statement of whether green spaces were too busy were generally negative (Chi square test, p < 0.001). Following on from this, the respondents were asked to rank from 1 (high) to 6 (low), a number of issues regarding green spaces in Southampton. Weather had the highest rank, whereas noise had the lowest (Table 2). Anti–social behaviour was the only issue whose ranks were not significantly different; this fact and the closeness to 3 of the mean, alludes to this being chosen randomly, with no clear high or low rank. The standard deviations overlapped for these issues, therefore comparisons can be questionable.

Table 3: Issues that were raised by respondents in an open question regarding green spaces.

Key Issue


Specific Comments (Hall)



Too much litter (Archers Road, Glen Eyre, Mayflower)



More green spaces that are easy to get to (Wessex Lane), quality of paths (Glen Eyre)



Anti–social behaviour (Archers Road, Glen Eyre, Mayflower), bad reputation (Glen Eyre), unsafe at night (City Gateway), crime (Wessex Lane)



Need more land for sports practice (Glen Eyre, Mayflower),

Facilities and events


Activities for all age groups (Glen Eyre, Mayflower), more large events like Common People (Wessex Lane), advertising (Glen Eyre)



Need to be better publicised (Highfield, Mayflower), better signposting (Glen Eyre, Highfield)



Noise pollution (City Gateway, Wessex Lane)



Lights along the main route of The Common (Glen Eyre)

External factors


Amount of spare time (Glen Eyre)



Need to protect nature (Mayflower, Wessex Lane)



Transport links (Glen Eyre), traffic (Wessex Lane)

Social Issues


Homelessness (Mayflower)

A voluntary open question was also posed to the students. The results have been grouped together in Table 3, where maintenance, safety, and accessibility are the major issues identified. Respondents, on average did not choose to answer this question, or stated "none" and those that answered it, generally raised only one issue.

Intra–hall comparison

On average, the students living in each hall visited a green space once a week. City Gateway (Figure 2) had a particularly high percentage of people who rarely visit a green space (29%), compared to Archers Road (0%) and Wessex Lane (9%).

Figure 2: How frequently students visit green spaces (as a percentage of the population).

Of the three statement questions posed to the students (enough green spaces, easily accessible, and too busy), there were no significant differences found between the halls of residence (Kruskal Wallis test, p > 0.05). The impact of genders was also analysed and found no significant differences between responses from males and females (Chi square test, p > 0.05).

Spatial distribution

Table 4: Green space spatial distribution in relation to each hall of residence.


Total population at time of survey

Area (m2)

Green space (m2)

Percentage green space

Green space density (m2 per person)

Archers Road






City Gateway






Glen Eyre


















Wessex Lane






The green space density and percentage green space for each site of accommodation can be seen in Table 4. Some of the new, large accommodation complexes are particularly lacking in on–site green space (City Gateway, Mayflower). Glen Eyre had a high percentage of green space, however when population was considered, Wessex Lane, with its smaller population had the highest amount of green space per person.

Perceived proximity and network analysis

During the survey, students were asked to choose how long they were willing to walk to reach certain benefits of green spaces. A two–way crossed ANOVA was carried out to look at the interactions and differences between halls and benefits. The two variables (type of benefit and hall) both significantly impacted the observed differences (p < 0.001). On average, students were willing to travel the furthest to access events (24.97 ± 19.15) and for organised sports (23.09 ± 20.07). In comparison, students were less willing to walk as far for fresh air (16.19 ± 16.09) and relaxing (17.07 ± 14.58). Time willing to spend accessing general green space (13.87 ± 11.80) and the benefits of walking (21.83 ± 16.46), enjoying nature (22.24 ± 17.81), and a place to meet (18.65 ± 16.08) were also measured (minutes ± standard deviation). However, the standard deviations show that there was a large range of answers for all of these benefits; this may have been influenced by the range of the closed response options.

To aid the survey questions, network analysis was used to calculate the service areas of halls in regards to the closest green space (Figure 3). The boundary areas were chosen in relation to the survey answer options (5, 10, 20, 40, and 60 minute walk). Some of the main parks that were servicing the halls of residence were Central Parks (Archers Road, Mayflower), The Common (Archers Road, Glen Eyre, Highfield) and Riverside Park (City Gateway, Wessex Lane). The maps also identified that some halls (Archers Road, City Gateway, Glen Eyre) did not have any green space in the closest proximity range (5–10 minutes).

Figure 3: Network Analysis results of different green spaces and walkable proximity to halls of residence, depicted as a triangle (a. Archers Road; b. City Gateway; c. Glen Eyre; d. Highfield; e. Mayflower; f. Wessex Lane).





To further this analysis, the closest green spaces within a 20 minute walk zone of each hall was determined (Table 5). Mayflower had the closest green spaces, followed by Highfield. Glen Eyre was the furthest away from green space and had the least variety within the 20 minute walk zone. The close proximity of City Gateway to Daisy Dip was slightly longer, realistically, due to the busy A–road located directly outside the accommodation.

Table 5: Proximity analysis of closest green space for each hall of residence.


Green space name

Time to walk to park (minutes)

Size of park (m2)


The Avenue



Little Monger Park



Central Parks



The Common





Daisy Dip



Riverside Park



Mansbridge Recreation Ground



Octavia Road



Glen Eyre

The Common



Daisy Dip




The Common



Glebe Court



Orchards Way




Central Parks



Blechynden Park



Western Esplanade Station Side Plots



Little Monger Park



The Avenue




Riverside Park



Saltmead Land



Octavia Road



Mansbridge Recreation Ground



Daisy Dip



Etheburt Avenue



Portswood Recreation Ground




Walkability analysis

Students in Southampton, on average, perceived their access to green space to be good and that they visited them at least once a week. Although most students agreed that they had good access to green space, in the open question the issue of accessibility was raised a number of times, especially in Wessex Lane. Some factors may have influenced this, such as the route to university or the city centre (which has a notable lack of green space for Wessex Lane halls), or limited signposting. A lack of information has not specifically arisen in past literature in terms of restricting accessibility. However in a study by Van Herzele & Wiedemann (2003), distance and safety are the key determinants to the use of green spaces. More knowledge and access to larger, city parks, compared to small neighbourhood parks, is also a common pattern found (Gidlow & Ellis, 2011).

Walking was the main form of transport for students and formed the basis of the network analysis. Time chosen to travel was the type of measurement generally used to calculate access through walking. The results of the analysis (Figure 3) showed that the large city parks serviced most of the University of Southampton accommodation, within a 20 minute walk. The Common and Riverside Park were the only two larger parks to service one or more halls, whereas Central Parks (one of the biggest city parks) only serviced Mayflower. Nonetheless, there are many private rented and Solent University accommodation complexes that will be putting pressure on this park, as well as local residents living in and visiting the city centre. Network analysis is a valuable tool for measuring accessibility and adds a level of complexity in regards to the use of linear features (such as roads and paths), that buffer analysis does not take into account (Handley et al., 2003). This method of GIS analysis has been built on a previous study by Comber, Brunsdon & Green (2008). Their research points out the added advantages of the analysis method being readily available to planners and local authorities for further investigation as well as the ease of interpretation. It was not possible to follow the specifics of this study due to the nature of the student population and its uneven spatial distribution. Therefore spatial analysis (Table 5) was used to aid the interpretation of the network analysis maps.

The integration of surveys and GIS analysis has been used in the past to analyse green space provision (Balram & Dragićević, 2005; Wheeler et al., 2010). However, this study is the first instance of the inclusion of network analysis and survey respondent data to analyse accessibility, use, and perceived valuations of green space. The inclusion of respondent data allows for more in depth analysis of students' views and green space use in Southampton.

Impact of location

There was no statistical difference in views from the survey in relation to the hall where the respondent lived. This could be attributed to the population characteristics. Respondents and students in general, lead similar lifestyles in terms of their type of work. As was expected, this study found most respondents to be between the ages of 18 and 25. Other factors such as income and aspects of urban life could also impact perceptions (Mitchell & Popham, 2007), however it has been found that student populations have similar values despite different backgrounds and upbringings (Lebo, Harrington and Tillman, 1995). A study by Maas et al. (2006) discovered that perceptions of health had a significant relationship to the proximity of green space at a 1 – 3 km scale, a similar distance between the student accommodations surveyed in this study. This implies there is a good supply of green space across Southampton, so as to not create negative health implications.

Although there were no differences in perceptions in use of green space, the GIS results indicate there is a difference in accessibility. Based on the network analysis, City Gateway and Glen Eyre had the poorest proximity to a variety of public green space, whereas Wessex Lane and Mayflower had the highest number of parks close by. City Gateway and Glen Eyre both had a high percentage of respondents expressing that they would rarely visit a green space (Figure 2); therefore proximity could be an influencing factor. The result from Wessex Lane contrasts with the views from the survey regarding access, previously identified, because the hall had the lowest percentage of people who would rarely visit a green space.

On–site green space

The provision of private gardens has been found to be negatively correlated to the extent of public urban green space (Barbosa et al., 2007). However, private spaces have different functions for people, in terms of providing a place for private social meetings, compared to the community of people being provided for in public parks. That being said, student halls are a form of communal living, with a range of people living in the shared accommodation complex. Therefore the provision of on–site, student accommodation green space would serve a much similar purpose to public ones. Glen Eyre had the highest percentage of green space within the boundary of the accommodation (Table 4), however when population size is considered, Wessex Lane had a slightly higher green space density. As previously stated, Glen Eyre had a high percentage of people rarely visiting green space. The provision of large quantities of green space on–site may have influenced this answer. City Gateway and Mayflower, the highest density halls, had no on–site green space. On the other hand, these halls were in close proximity to a public green space, which corresponds to the results found by Barbosa et al.

Perceived valuation

Young, educated people are the general population demographics that sum up student communities. According to a study by Mäkinen & Tyrväinen (2008), young people value the beauty of green spaces the most, as well as the opportunities they present for sports and social activities. That being said, they also use green spaces less than older adults. The results from the survey agree with these findings. Students were more willing to walk further to access the physical benefits of green spaces, such as organised sports and events, than to access health advantages, which alludes to them valuing these benefits more. The large standard deviation does raise the issue of reliability in these comparisons, however the results are backed up by the ANOVA results and by Mäkinen & Tyrväinen. On the other hand, other studies have also shown that the positive mental and physical health impacts of green spaces are the main benefits for a more diverse neighbourhood (Gidlow & Ellis, 2011). Health benefits are perhaps more easily identifiable, such as through obesity rates, and can potentially be seen indirectly through fewer cases of specific illnesses that can be exaggerated with higher levels of air pollution (Holliday, 2017). Providing places for sports and the enjoyment of being involved in an event is more subjective and relies on the population participating in these specific opportunities to begin with.

Students placed a lot of value on natural green space, compared to highway green space, which they perceived to have little value. Overall, students found there to be enough, accessible green space that was not perceived to be too busy. Balram & Dragićević (2005) discovered that attitudes are based around behaviour and usefulness of spaces. This could explain the reasons behind the lack of value in highway green space as they are often small and not specifically used. On the other hand, the high valuation of natural green space by students could be attributed to an understanding of the benefit to biodiversity, which may have been implied by the word "natural".

Issues for management

Maintenance was the most frequently raised issue by respondents. The main source of concern was the quantity of litter that was present in parks. Litter has negative impacts on the economy, environment, and human health. These consequences arise due to the impact litter has on clean–up costs, biodiversity, and the visual amenity of parks. A report by "Clean Up Britain" (Kolodko, Read & Taj, 2016) looked into the reasons behind littering and ways to reduce it. Some of these could be implemented in Southampton and other UK cities. For example, increasing the perceived cost of littering and reducing the perceived cost of not littering is a key concept promoted in the report. The role of institutes in engaging their targeted populations is important. Thus universities have an important part to play in the reduction of litter. As well as this, there is a need for better information regarding waste and the possibility of providing incentives to reduce litter. Maintenance issues were mainly raised by students in halls closer to the city centre. This indicates that the city parks have more of an issue concerning litter.

Safety was another of the main issues raised throughout mostly all of the accommodations. The issues of anti–social behaviour, crime, lighting, and in particular safety at night, were all raised, as well as an overall consensus that Southampton's green spaces had a "bad reputation". This issue has been emerging throughout the UK and Europe. A systematic review by Sreetheran & Van Den Bosch (2014), found there to be many types of fear associated with green spaces in European countries, especially in regards to females and ethnic minorities. Good visibility has been shown to be directly correlated with feelings of safety (Coles, 1995). Further analysis of this is needed within a UK context, to increase knowledge of the current state of visibility within UK green spaces. The issue of safety is a nation–wide cause for concern and thus needs more action to tackle it.

When students were asked to rank a list of different issues the results for each issue did not differ significantly (Table 2). However weather was ranked the highest. Issues such as weather, air quality, and anti–social behaviour can generally not be overcome through park management strategies alone. However certain designs and management plans could reduce issues regarding accessibility, litter, and noise. Management is a key theme regarding the understanding of green space (James et al., 2009). Planning, designing, and managing green space is important, especially in relation to connectivity to each other and to the city. The Common (one of Southampton's green spaces) has a large number of organised sports and events that students can get involved in and that they value. More organised events across the city's green spaces may increase the connectivity between these spaces and the city's different communities.

Guidance for planning

A recent count of planned purpose built student accommodation over the last five years found over 50 results (Southampton City Council, 2018), however not all of these have been constructed. Future planning should take into account the surrounding green space, especially considering the changing pressures on it, as a service to students. This is in terms of a place to socialize and play sports, as well as the potential to host events on green sites. Whilst the position of halls is becoming less important, as they have better transport links and a high quantity of public green space (especially in Southampton), there is still a need for good access to other facilities near student accommodation (Davies, Preston & Wilson, 1992). Green space could accommodate some of these needs, such as providing an outdoor sports site. As well as this, facilities close by could reduce dependence on transport links and encourage walking (Sugiyama et al., 2012), thus making a community more sustainable. Accessibility is a key aspect of green space provision and management. The Accessible Natural Green Space Standard states two main standards. These are: for urban residents to have a natural green space of at least 0.02 km2 within 0.5 km of their home as well as a minimum of 0.01 km2 of Local Nature Reserves per thousand urban residents (English Nature, 1995). Although these standards are old, they are still being incorporated into green space management plans (such as in Southampton), used in recent studies, and are a good guideline to follow.

Student numbers have almost doubled since 1992 (ONS, 2016). Figures have also seen a rise in in–migration of people around university starting age and out–migration at university leaving age. There is therefore a need to house this population, if only for a temporary period. The newer student accommodations (City Gateway and Mayflower) studied during this research were particularly lacking in on–site green space. As funding for green spaces within Southampton has been steadily decreasing (Southampton City Council, 2008), there could be a solution to this through providing good access to quality green space by incorporating it into the designs of student accommodation. Southampton does currently have an abundance of parks. Increasing levels of public green space have been found to result in an increase in house prices, leading to "green gentrification" (Gould & Lewis, 2012; Zukin et al., 2009). It would therefore be more beneficial to provide on–site green space. This could also limit the amount of tensions between local people and students, as well as putting less pressure on existing green infrastructure. Green space initiatives, as explored by Wolch et al. (2014), include the idea of green roofs, especially useful in space limited development. Retrofitting green space to existing sites could also be done. These options may be particularly important in other cities, where there is less urban green space that is easily accessible, but still has the pressures of an increasing student population building on it.

It is important to include people participation when analysing green space as they highlight non–economic values. Balram & Dragićević (2005) found from their study of attitudes towards green space that participant involvement in the initial survey design stages, helped highlight a general desire to improve management and encouraged sustainability designs of green space. Events were well valued by students, shown by how long they would choose to travel to access them. This result may be in relation to the number of large organised events held in The Common (Southampton City Council, n.d.). The potential for holding more events in other green spaces around Southampton seems to be there, in terms of attracting a student audience. There are many issues around large student populations, such as rubbish, noise, and lack of street parking (Mosey, 2017). These can be somewhat overcome with increased housing of students within purpose built accommodation. Students can also bring regeneration to an area due to their purchasing power and utilisation of services (Chatterton, 1999; Chatterton, 2000). Nonetheless, there is still likely to be tensions between students and locals. It is therefore up to city planners and universities to sustainably and effectively manage the student population, by taking into account, location, design, and the surrounding facilities and local people.


The present study was based on a survey of 290 students across six University of Southampton halls of residence. As a result, the answers may not have been representative of the entire student population. This is in terms of both other students at the University of Southampton and students at Southampton Solent University. It may have been interesting to gage the views of students in private accommodation complexes, as there has been a massive increase in these being constructed across Southampton (Southampton City Council, 2018). Views from those in student housing (private rented in a residential house rather than a complex) would also have been interesting to analyse. The study was only conducted in Southampton. A comparison and further analysis of other university cities, as well as towns and cities where there is less of a student presence, may be needed to fully understand the impacts and pressures of students on green spaces and how to manage their needs and uses. Common Method Bias (Podsakoff et al., 2003) is an issue with the questionnaire methodology. A lack of open questions may have limited the amount of personal, unprompted views being expressed. However the basis of the closed questions took into account the results of similar studies regarding green space. Confining answers to closed, multiple choice questions also allowed for ease of statistical analysis (Boynton & Greenhalgh, 2004) which provides confidence measurements for the results.

The network analysis looked only into the walkability of green space. Although this was the main form of transport, further analysis of driving times as well as looking into the network of public transport links may have highlighted some lack of accessibility across the city, especially East to West access. It would have especially been interesting to look into bus routes and times as each student in University of Southampton halls of residence is provided with a bus pass. A standard measurement of accessibility may be a useful tool in future, not only for green space access but also access to other facilities and services that students rely on. This will be important for assessing the sustainability of growing student populations in cities. This study provides a basis for creating a standard accessibility analysis, however a single index for accessibility may be more beneficial, especially in terms of ease of interpretation for city planners.


Student perceptions of green space accessibility and quality are good overall. In terms of walkable access, the main larger parks of Southampton serviced all of the halls of residences analysed (within a 20 minute walk). The location of each hall did not generally influence the views of the students in relation to their access, busyness, and quantity. This being said, there is a difference in access both on–site and around the city between the studied accommodations. A lack of supply of green space has been found to result in negative health implications; however due to the quantity of it in Southampton, this is unlikely to be a problem. Some of the key concerns raised by students were maintenance (litter) and safety (anti–social behaviour, lighting). The management of parks, especially in overcoming the issues raised, is important for future city development. There is a need to plan and construct purpose built student accommodation in specifically selected areas. Consideration of the pressures on the surrounding areas, not just in terms of green space but also the other facilities and local population, need to be acknowledged. Some lack of on–site green space was identified within this study, which could be having an impact on students' perceptions of the city's quantities of green spaces. Therefore, it is advised that future designs of student accommodation incorporate green space. This would take pressure off of existing infrastructure and limit the amount of local and student interactions that could lead to tensions. Students were willing to travel further to access organised sports and events. This implies that there is the opportunity for holding more events in parks, especially across the city. Actions need to be taken by both planners and universities with respect to sustainably managing a growing student population. One of the key limitations of the study was the extent of the survey. Further understanding of the influence of types of accommodation, different cities, and more opportunities within the survey for students to express their views, unprompted, is recommended. Furthermore, additional research into the access to green spaces through public transport could be undertaken.


I would like to thank Dr Malcolm D Hudson for his supervision and support of the project as well as providing valuable feedback on the methods and results of the study. I would also like to thank Tatiana Alvares–Sanches for her help with the GIS analysis. Assistance by Lindsay McCulloch from Southampton City Council in the formation of initial ideas and furthering my understanding of Southampton's green spaces was greatly appreciated. Finally, I would like to offer my special thanks to my family and friends for helping carry out the surveys and proof reading.

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Appendix 1 Green space survey hosted online on the University of Southampton's iSurvey platform.

Section 1: Green Space Accessibility