People living in Northampton have less access to public parks and open spaces than other town and city dwellers across the region, new figures suggest.
An analysis of government data by the think-tank Centre for Cities shows the varying amounts of space – inside and out – available to residents in different urban areas.
It says having enough room is important for people to be able to cope with current Covid-19 restrictions, and that councils should bear this in mind when considering social distancing measures.
Northampton residents had access to just 9.8 square metres of public parks and gardens per person in 2018 – less than any other town or city in the East Midlands included in the analysis.
Across England and Wales, the urban area with the most open space per person was Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, with 47.0 square metres, while Worthing in West Sussex had just 3.9 square metres.
Nicola Hodgson, from the charity Open Spaces Society, said the disparity was partly due to a lack of legal requirements around what public outdoor space councils must provide.
She added: “The present restrictions on public movement have highlighted the importance of the accessibility of open space that is near to where people live.
“Going forward it will be important to ensure provision of open space is adequately protected.”
The research also looked at data on the amount of domestic space in different areas.
People in Northampton had an average of 35.7 square metres of living space per person in 2018, according to the report.
This was just about on a par with the average of 35.5 square metres for built-up areas across England and Wales – roughly equivalent to the area of 14 double mattresses.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “As we all learn to live with the lockdown, having enough inside and outside space is a real help for some people.
“But where housing is the least affordable, people are less likely to have access to their own space – either in a flat or house or in the garden.
“That’s something we know councils will be considering when they weigh up calls to close off green spaces.”
According to the group's findings, 18% of people in Northampton lived in flats last year, meaning they were less likely to have access to a private garden.
But this was still well below the average of 30% across England and Wales.