Socialist Worker

Race and class at root of garden divide in Britain

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2705

Public parks are vital, especially for people without gardens. But cops have told people to go home during the lockdown

Public parks are vital, especially in poorer areas. But cops have told people to go home during the lockdown (Pic: Socialist Worker)

A new study emphasises how class divisions and racism in Britain are having an impact during the pandemic.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show one in eight households has no access to a private or shared garden.

This rises to more than one in five households in London. But it’s not the same for everyone in the same geographical area—class matters.

People in Britain who are in what are defined as semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden.

The cleaner, the supermarket worker and the delivery driver are more likely to be forced to go to an unsafe work environment, and then at home to be confined without the respite of a garden.

In England, black people are nearly four times as likely as white people to have no access to outdoor space at home. And that includes a private or shared garden, patio or balcony.

Even when comparing people of similar age, social grade and living situation, black people are 2.4 times less likely than white people to have a private garden.


This may be one factor contributing to the disproportionately high Covid-19 deaths among black and Asian people. Living in cramped condition spreads the virus more easily.

Access to public parks is more evenly distributed. People from minority ethnic groups are almost as likely as white people to say their local green spaces are “within easy walking distance”. This emphasises the importance of defending public space and stopping park closures.

Parks are most accessible in the poorest areas. People in the most deprived neighbourhoods of England are around twice as likely as those in the least deprived to be within five minutes’ walk of a public park.

This is particularly important in London. Despite being least likely to have access to a private garden, people living in London are most likely to have a park nearby. Ordnance Survey data show that 44 percent of Londoners live within a five-minute walk of a park, rising to 58 percent including playing fields.

When cops harass park-users they are continuing their bearing down on working class and black people.

Every aspect of the lockdown is infused with the effect of class differences and racism.

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