Green Space

The amount of green space within the Whitby urban area “Local Plan” has been eroded over many years, most recently by housing. There are targets set by councils and governments for how much should be provided, though the accessibility is often not allowed for by councils when defining levels; targets for green space provided by the WHO, however, require that such green space be accessible, safe and functional. The Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) Local Plan is supposed to protect the green space to maintain a quality of life for residents; as you will see it does nothing of the sort.

The current Whitby Local Plan for green space is shown on the map below, colour coded for the different types of green space, namely “Natural” (dark green), “Urban Park” (light green), “Sports – Educational” (yellow), “Sports – Professional” (orange), “Sports – Other” (red), “Other – Amenity” (purple), “Other – Green Corridor” (pale turquoise), “Planned” (turquoise), and “Suggested” (light grey) with different types of play area marked. Alternatively, click this link for a larger version. Note that we also mark the available allotments (brown), even though these are not included in some green space calculations.


Green space is of paramount importance to the physical and mental health of residents, and this is backed up by ample evidence. A report by the WHO in 2017 provides guidance on the impact and effectiveness of providing green space and, as this analysis says “The WHO report represents an important step forward. As worrying trends in mental ill-health, obesity, social isolation, health inequalities and environmental degradation grow globally, there is a pressing need to implement equitable solutions – and green space has a key role to play in this. Urban green-space interventions can deliver health, social and environmental benefits for all population groups – particularly among lower socioeconomic status groups. There are very few – if any – other public health interventions that can achieve all of this.”

In a report by Public Health England in March 2020 “Recognising that greener neighbourhood environments convey a disproportionate health benefit to disadvantaged groups, well-planned green infrastructure can be one approach toward reducing health inequalities. This is particularly salient in the context of widening health inequalities in England. Greenspace must be viewed as a critical infrastructure to achieve wider local priorities, and creativity in how it will be funded, managed and delivered to meet the needs of the population.These times require strong local leadership and political will that recognises the true value of local greenspace as essential assets in the delivery of health, social, environment and economic outcomes to ensure greenspace survive and thrive.”. The report stressed the need to treat greenspace as “critical infrastructure” and as being required to meet local priorities. Specifically a local authority should ensure that the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JHWS) define how local greenspace can be used to meet the current and future health needs of the population, and to ensure that the Local Plan reflects the health priorities laid out in the JSNA and JHWS.

The countryside charity CPRE issued a report in Feb 2022 saying “Green spaces contribute to (i) climate change adaptation and mitigation; and (ii) to the functioning of wider places and systems (such as wildlife corridors, views and settings, and natural drainage areas). see The Environment Act 2021, Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards (ANGSt) are needed to ensure human health, wellbeing and equality”.

In a report by the Director of Public Health for NYCC (2022) it is stated “Support equitable access to green space”, and “Building back ‘greener’ is a key ambition nationally and for local partners, … such as improving green spaces … we can help limit the harmful impacts into the future“.

Urban green spaces improve the health and well-being of residents conferring benefits from the eco-system by

  • buffering noise pollution,
  • improving air quality – the absorption and shielding from particulate matter (i.e. exhaust from vehicles and smoke from the burning of fossil fuels),
    and the removal of carbon dioxide a green house gas.
  • reduction of flood damage by retaining heavy rain. The role of trees in this function to prevent soil erosion is well established.
  • preventing heat stress (shade from trees).
  • providing areas for recreation.

Not all green spaces are equal. The greater the biodiversity the greater the health benefits. Grassland is a useful area for recreation. But the increased biodiversity in a flower meadow greatly increases the well-being benefits of the space. The addition of shrubs and trees to a grassed area increases further the visual enhancement and heat stress reduction.

Specifically considering biodiversity, from SBC’s own 2005 Biodiversity Action Plan, where it states “Biodiversity is vital to life and, in its simplest terms, enables life to exist on the earth. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, are all linked together in a complex web, every plant and animal having its own small part to play. Even the places we know and the livelihoods that people have are largely dependent on the rich diversity of life around them and together give that sense of place that makes Yorkshire different from Essex or Gristhorpe different from Hunmanby. Change though is a natural and important part of the natural world and development is both inevitable and necessary. It is therefore imperative that such development pays respect to the biodiversity of the region and seeks to maintain and enhance it for our future generations. This is what sustainability is all about“.

In summary, there is consensus amongst a very wide range of organisations (including NYCC and SBC), and local authorities should pay strict attention to this message.

SBC Audit (2014)

The SBC Green Space Audit (2014) assessed the green space in Whitby as it was in 2014. This report equated it to 75 hectares (ha) of open space, sport and recreation, or 5.6ha per 1000 population, and a third of the sites graded for quality failed to meet the standard required for their types (if something doesn’t meet a required standard, doesn’t that mean that it should not be counted?). This audit did not make any special allowance where green space was not publicly accessible (whether due to being very steep, or being fenced off).

Amongst the observations and recommendations of that audit

  1. Desire to enhance the quality of Stakesby Vale, which was rated as poor. Nothing has changed with Stakesby Vale in the intervening 8 years, other than further deterioration of the path through that area, with the area discriminating against disabled people also. See our proposal for provision of a shared walking / cycle path through that area.
  2. Seek to enhance the quality of Tuckers Field (paddling pool etc), which also didn’t meet the required quality. Again, little has been done here since that report, and parts of it are actually used as an overflow car park by SBC. See our proposal to have a shared walking/cycle path across Tuckers Field as well as along West Cliff.
  3. Provision of natural green space was below the local standard, with a deficiency of 5.5ha, though SBC think this is offset by the proximity of the NYMNP, however many people don’t have transport, and to have to use transport just to reach natural space is an excessive obligation (the equivalent country parks in Filey and Scarborough are significantly closer). Additionally, the rules of a national park are not the same as for natural green space in a town, and a national park is not comparable to a country park, like what is provided for Scarborough and Filey residents.
  4. The audit notes that “Natural Parks and Green Spaces in Whitby are accessible”, though note that this simply means the green spaces are within reach (walking distance) of residential. It does not mean that they are accessible with respect to less able-bodied residents for example (Stakesby Vale has steps to enter the area, West Cliff has gradients of up to 45 degrees and much of the area is definitely not for use by the public, school sports fields are not accessible for the public except within the scope of a club), and in fact totally ignores this definition of accessibility.
  5. Provision of urban green space was below the local standard, with a deficiency of 6.2ha, particularly in the Helredale area. There has been no further provision since then.
  6. Provision of other green space was above the local standard with a surplus of 5.6ha, and this could be used to fulfil the deficiencies in other categories, however land around Highfield Road (1.1ha) has been lost since the audit, as has Helredale playing field (1.6ha).
  7. Provision of sports green space exceeded the local standard, however Helredale playing field (1.6ha) has since been sold off for housing. Larpool playing field was of poor standard back then and nothing has been done to correct this. There was a lack of green space for ad-hoc sports for residents around the Mayfield area (no amenity space, nearest accessible sports at White Leys or Larpool!).
Issues with the audit were as follows
  • Helredale Playing Field was categorised as both Other and Sports, that means duplication!
  • East Whitby Primary Academy has a sports field, but this was seemingly not included, why? This would account for the order of 0.6ha.
  • West Cliff Primary has a playground, but this was seemingly not included, why? This would account for the order of 0.1ha.
  • Whitby RC Primary School had 2 sports fields, but these were seemingly not included, why? They would account for the order of 0.6ha.
  • It made no allowance for accessibility of individual green space areas. Both the WHO and Ordnance Survey definitions of green space consider accessibility to be a key aspect and to ignore this leads to an erroneous representation of utility of the space.
  • The area for secondary schools (Caedmon College, Caedmon Sixth Form and Eskdale School) are to cater for the whole travel-to-work-area (TTWA), so should be scaled by 13213/25000.
Also of relevance is the Whitby Area Development Trust response to the Local Plan in 2015, which covers green space provision amongst other things.

Current Status

Since the 2014 Audit the West Cliff area has further deteriorated, with land slips as well as lack of weed clearance. In addition, an amount of green space has been lost due to reclassification, or targetted for reclassification, typically for housing by SBC.

  1. Helredale playing field (1.6ha) was lost for just this reason, as was land on Highfield Road (1.1ha).
  2. Whitby RC Primary playing fields (0.6ha) were lost due to school closure. Unclear if this location was included in the 2014 Audit
  3. A current SBC target is Larpool playing field (1.7ha approximately); this is the sole publicly-accessible playing field area on the east side of Whitby, and it has not been maintained (by SBC) to any degree for many years (rated by SBC as poor in the above audit) and, despite this, is still well used, particularly in summer and by dog walkers, yet SBC want to convert it into a cemetery extension. This land being green space was used by SBC as the argument for reclassifying Helredale playing field in the first place. It would effectively leave the whole town with just 1 accessible playing field. We include it in our current list.
  4. SBC are also considering reclassifying the land either side of Rievaulx Road (0.8ha) for housing, as well as the entry to Calla Beck from Spital Bridge (0.5ha) for the housing project “Better Homes” (contrary to the Local Plan). We include these in our current list also.

In order to perform a calculation of current green space, and to attempt to understand (and possibly correct) problems in the 2014 Audit, we require the sizes of the individual green space areas, since each area has its own accessibility aspect (accessibility here meaning for all residents, regardless of disabilities etc). The 2014 Audit document did not divulge the sizes of constituent areas, simply stating the totals for each type of green space, with transparency of calculation not a consideration seemingly. As a result we need to calculate the sizes, and using publicly available internet tools so that our work is reproducible by others (transparency is a good thing). We will be using Google Maps, with the area calculated being projected from vertically above, and we will comment on the validation of this method later to justify the results.

The table below lists all known green space areas within the town boundary (including East Whitby Academy playing field, West Cliff Primary playground, CinderTrack(South), Stakesby Corridor omitted by SBC – these are highlighted YELLOW in the table). The quality column comes from the 2014 Audit, other than minor updates noted later in our review. Note that we have added a column for the accessibility of the area, and a column for the accessible area; these are discussed later.

LocationTypeQualityArea (ha)Accessibility (%)Accessible
Area (ha)
West CliffNaturalAverage (+)11.0505.5
Calla BeckNaturalAverage (+)7.11007.1
Stakesby ValeNaturalPoor2.91002.9
Pannett ParkUrban – Town ParkExcellent3.41003.4
Tuckers Field (Golf, Paddling Pool, Skatepark)Urban – Town ParkAverage2.91002.9
Crescent GardenUrban – Square/GardenGood0.71000.7
Caedmon CollegeSports – Educational1.2 (*)750.9
Caedmon Sixth FormSports – Educational3.8 (*)752.9
Eskdale SchoolSports – Educational3.2 (*)752.4
Airy Hill Primary SchoolSports – Educational0.5750.4
East Whitby Primary AcademySports – Educational0.6750.5
Stakesby Primary AcademySports – Educational1.1750.8
West Cliff Primary SchoolSports – Educational0.1750.1
Whitby Cricket GroundSports – Professional1.400.0
Whitby Football GroundSports – Professional1.000.0
Tuckers Field (Bowls/Tennis)SportsExcellent1.81001.8
White LeysSportsGood3.41003.4
Larpool FieldSportsPoor1.71001.7
Airy Hill ParkOther – Amenity0.41000.4
Bylands RoadOther – Amenity0.11000.1
Eastside Other – Amenity1.21001.2
Eskdale RoadOther – Amenity0.81000.8
Green LaneOther – Amenity1.31001.3
Highfield RoadOther – Amenity0.21000.2
Khyber PassOther – Amenity0.61000.6
Kirkham CloseOther – Amenity0.51000.5
Rievaulx RoadOther – Amenity0.81000.8
Sunken GardensOther – Amenity0.31000.3
Upgang Railway LineOther – Amenity1.51001.5
West Cliff TopOther – Amenity1.51001.5
Westbourne RoadOther – Amenity0.51000.5
CinderTrack (To Viaduct)Other – Green Corridor3.2501.6
CinderTrack (South)Other – Green Corridor1.21001.2
Stakesby CorridorOther – Green Corridor0.11000.1

In accordance with our transparency policy, this table is downloadable in (XLSX) spreadsheet format.

Note that the items marked with an asterisk (*) are secondary schools that have been scaled for the TTWA (13213/25000), so would be 2.3ha, 7.1ha, 6.0ha before scaling.

Regarding our choice of calculation method (Google Maps), comparing the data in the above table with the 2014 Audit :

  • The audit refers to 3 sites of natural covering 21ha, which concurs with our calculations.
  • The audit refers to 3 sites for urban parks covering around 7ha, which concurs with our calculations.
  • The audit refers to 11 sites for sport, whilst we currently have 10 (Helredale playing field was lost for housing, and not including those that the 2014 audit didnt include). The audit had 8.4ha for other sports (4 areas) whilst we have 6.9ha (3 areas) allowing 1.6ha for Helredale playing field, so concurring. The audit had 21.6ha for educational/professional sport, whilst we have 19.4ha (ignoring the TTWA scaling of secondary school facilities); the remaining 2.2ha discrepancy is unclear at this time (perhaps SBC included East Whitby, West Cliff and RC Primary?).
  • The audit refers to 17 sites of other – amenity covering around 13ha, whereas our calculation comes to 9.7ha, though some area around Highfield Road (1.1ha) was lost to housing, and the audit also included Helredale playing field (1.6ha – duplication). The remaining 0.6ha discrepancy is unclear.
  • The audit refers to 1 other – green corridor (CinderTrack (to Viaduct)) of around 3.3ha, and our number for that area concurs.
We consider the general level of alignment of our calculation and the 2014 Audit calculation to be sufficient validation of the method used here for estimating land area. The remaining discrepancies can only be uncovered if SBC revealed more about their data and process.

If we now take the figures in the table above and normalise them to be area per 1000 head of population, we can then compare with green space provision in Scarborough and Filey, arriving at the following

(ha / 1000)
(ha / 1000)
(ha / 1000)
(ha / 1000)
Urban Park1.000.530.531.221.84
Other – Amenity0.550.730.731.260.35
Other – Green Corridors0.000.340.220.190.05
Other – Cemeteries0.

In accordance with our transparency policy, this table is downloadable in (XLSX) spreadsheet format.

In this table we have assumed the populations are Scarborough (61660), Filey (6980) and Whitby (13213) – from the 2014 Audit. The hectare numbers for Scarborough and Filey are from the 2014 Audit (unknown if they have changed since that), whereas the numbers for Whitby are the current levels (2022) in our calculation above. Note that the local standard for natural greenspace of 2ha / 1000 population aligns with Natural England’s recommendation, however they also recommend that no person should reside more than 300m from their nearest area, which certainly is not being met in Whitby, with just three such areas.

Looking at just the base areas (but including green corridors) we have a total of 62.0ha of green space in Whitby at an average of 4.69ha / 1000 population, less than the SBC local standard, and significantly less than is provided for residents of both Filey and Scarborough.

Accessibility Allowance

An amount of the defined green space in Whitby is, to varying degrees, inaccessible to the general public and hence unusable, but is listed in the table, so we have attempted to allow for this in the last column. Here are some examples, with the reasoning behind our accessibility classification

  • All items in the “Sports – Educational” category are inaccessible to the general public, just to pupils during certain hours or via certain organised clubs, comprising 10.5ha. The vast majority of the sports facilities provision in the Whitby area is in this category (60+%, after TTWA scaling), unlike the situation for Scarborough / Filey. Here we use a multiplier of 75% for the accessibility, since they are not available for ad-hoc sports for the public. This is more in tune with the OCSI definition of greenspace “Playing fields should only be included in OS Greenspace dataset where they are used by the public at least some of the time. Playing fields such as school fields which are entirely enclosed and only for use of the school, would not be expected to be included”.
  • All areas in the “Sports – Professional” category are inaccessible to the public for use, and only for (commercial) sports viewing, hence should not be counted. The multiplier is 0% here. This is in line with the OCSI definition of greenspace “Sports stadiums and grounds which are primarily for spectating rather than participating in sports are not included”.
  • The CinderTrack (to Viaduct) is situated in an embankment and so the sides of the embankment are not usable, hence its contribution of 3.2ha is not representative. We use a multiplier of 50% for accessibility.
  • West Cliff has a series of steep paths (30-45 degree gradients), and so only a subset of the space is accessible to only the very able-bodied, and inaccessible to others. This is also the largest contributor to green space in the town, of which the majority is inaccessible. It has also suffered from landslips over recent years, as well as no weed clearance from paths. We consider it generous to take 50% as the multiplier for accessibility.
  • Tuckers Field sports area is regularly repurposed by SBC as car parking, hence making it inaccessible for recreation during that period. We haven’t allowed for this unavailability in the calculation.
  • White Leys becomes a caravan park for several weeks of the year, hence unusable by residents during that period. We haven’t allowed for this unavailability in the calculation. Note, the same happens to Stakesby Primary and Caedmon College playing fields over summer holidays.
As a simple example of why accessibility is essential to be taken into account answer this question – would you equate an area of 11ha on a slope of 40 degrees with cliff slides to be as effective for the local population in terms of green space as 11ha of gently rolling countryside? That is the case with West Cliff.
When we take into account accessibility using the above method, a more representative green space total for Whitby is 49.9ha, at an average of 3.77ha / 1000 population. The precise accessibility allowance method is clearly subjective, but the fact that Whitby’s true representative green space area will be noticeably reduced from the base area is beyond doubt.
  • Ignoring green space accessibility, Whitby has a deficit of 5ha of Natural, 6ha of Urban Parks and 3ha of Sports green space, and some of the 2014 surplus in Other – Amenity has now been lost.
  • Considering green space accessibility, Whitby has a deficit of  10.5ha of Natural, 6ha of Urban Parks, and 7.7ha of Sports.
  • Compared to Scarborough and Filey, where SBC is largely fulfilling its mandate, Whitby’s problems, highlighted in 2014, are not being addressed with the continual desire of SBC to reclassify green space for housing, ignore the findings of their own audit, and ignore condition HC14 of their Local Plan.

Other Measures of Green Space

Natural England have developed a tool for assessing green infrastructure (GI) in urban areas, defining some measures for the level of green space provision. This can be found here. They are proposing to roll out use of this tool in 2023. Use of the current (beta) version of this tool on the Whitby area reveals

  • There are several areas in Whitby that fail the ANGst Doorstep standard (0.5ha within 200m). Notably, large parts of Stakesby, Castle Park, Mayfield, Railway, Eskdale.
  • The majority of the residential areas in Whitby fail the ANGst Local standard (2.0ha within 300m).
  • All of the Whitby urban area fails the ANGst Neighbourhood standard (10.0ha within 1km).

The provision of green space is clearly unacceptable by Natural England’s proposed standards based on what data their tool currently has. It would be desirable if this GI tool was integrated with what SBC currently have (in terms of green space map areas, and types) so that it is simple to assess the different categories of green infrastructure. We have some areas of green space (SBC standard) that are not featured on the GI tool (e.g Rievaulx Road, Kirkham Close, Westbourne Road, some school playing fields, parts of Stakesby Vale, West Cliff top, etc). The problem seems to be that it currently uses OS Open Greenspace, and this is an incomplete representation of greenspace in the UK. Hopefully by the time this is rolled out we can have a consistent definition, as well as well-defined types of green space so that clarity of categorisation is no longer an issue, and so that we have an immediate assessment of GI in our area without having to resort to a manual audit every few years and having to fight every council attempt at re-assignment of green space land.

A further measure of green space is provided by the Fields In Trust “Green Space Index”. Their system concludes that the majority of the Whitby area has “less than the minimum standard” (search for Whitby and zoom in) … this is largely consistent with the ANGst Doorstep standard above for the Natural England tool.

Quality and Maintenance

The 2014 Audit states a vision of “A well-managed, accessible semi-natural / native environment designated to protect and enhance wildlife / biodiversity. Includes water areas, appropriately sited information boards, bins, picnic areas and parking facilities. The area should be free of litter, fly tipping and dog fouling.” The reality in 2022 is somewhat different, with this vision not being attained in many areas around the town.
West Cliff

West Cliff has had no maintenance for several years now, and has suffered some cliff slides. It’s quality rating should be downgraded to “Average” from “Good” (2014).

  • Paths could be cleared of weed growth.
  • Cliff slides need stabilising
  • Cliff drainage, particularly near the sea wall, needs work.
Stakesby Vale

Stakesby Vale was rated as “Poor” in 2014, and has only suffered further deterioration since.

  • Path : The beck path (NYCC responsibility) currently consists of cracked concrete, small paves, and appalling patched tarmac. It does not support active travel, with a 1980s sign of cycling prohibited. It discriminates against disabled people, with a series of unnecessary steps just beyond Stakesby Vale gate.
  • Maintenance : The area often suffers from fly tipping, and has areas that are totally overgrown, and undeveloped. The area where the scout hut used to be up to 1970s could be developed, for example.
  • Lighting : It has street lamps from Stakesby Vale road through to the link between Sunningdale Grove and Dundas Gardens; these would need extending to High Stakesby Road for it to be a complete lit path route.
Upgang Lane Railway

Upgang Lane Railway section was not rated for quality in 2014. It is a good sports amenity area, as well as for dog walking.

  • It is totally overgrown the other side of Beeching Mews where the mesh fence has been put up.
  • The fence needs removing to make it accessible. It needs a path running the full length, as well as benches.
Calla Beck

California Beck, or Calla Beck is not generally well-developed or maintained. It was rated as “Good” in 2014, but is arguably now “Average”.

  • Utilisation : It currently has low utilisation partly due to the unappealing entrance.
  • Maintenance : It would benefit from a general clear up around the entrance, adding an archway feature, for example, and a basic loop path (to improve accessibility), with benches. SBC have been doing some minor updates recently (late 2022).
  • The historical rubbish tip area is in need of development.


While it was not considered as green space by the SBC Audit, allotments are considered green space using some measures. We have marked the allotments in the Whitby area on the above map. Allotments amount to 7.2ha in total (Green Lane 3.3ha, Prospect Hill 2.8ha, Stakesby Vale 0.7ha, California Beck 0.2ha, Cholmley 0.2ha). It is worth noting that Stakesby Vale allotments were surveyed in 2019-2020, presumably with a view to potential housing.

Future Updates

Whitby lacks green space necessary for the well-being of its residents, being below local as well as national standards, and all efforts should be directed towards protecting the current space and expanding it to overcome this shortfall. This has a direct impact on residents health and the local council should be not only looking to remedy the deficit, but also to enhance it; the evidence for the benefit of green space is compelling. To put this in context, both Whitby West and Whitby South and East are amongst the worst in North Yorkshire for life expectancy. This large deficit in green space is very likely a contributory factor and must be corrected.

Some green space is likely to be added to the above calculations in the coming year(s). Note that there have been no discussions with residents groups about the make up of this added green space, which goes against the WHO report conclusions. These green space areas (likely) to be added are marked on the above map, in colour turquoise. The calculation above will need revisiting at that point.

  • Development of the ProspectHill line from the CinderTrack to town centre would also contribute a “Green Corridor”. A very rough calculation would be around 1.3ha. This is clearly dependent on development of this active travel route, the land being owned by Network Rail for most of the route. Should the space up the bank to Caedmon College be included allowing for more paths like in our Country Park proposal below, then the area could be greater.
  • Broomfields Farm Phase 1 development will be contributing an amount of green space alongside the Yorkshire Water treatment works. A very rough calculation from the initial development plan would be around 2.3ha (excluding the “attenuation basins” since they are unusable dead spaces for residents). Bearing in mind this area is immediately adjacent to the water treatment works, the aroma is unlikely to encourage people to spend much time there, so the quality of this space is undefined at this point.
  • Broomfields Farm Phase 2 development (no planning permission currently) is proposing to provide around 2.4ha of green space alongside the CinderTrack boundary to the site (excluding the “attenuation basin” since it is unusable dead space for residents).

Whilst addition of green space is positive, one is simply a “Green Corridor” item that doesn’t address the problems. It is unclear what type of green space the Broomfields Farm areas will be classified as.

If we analyse the progress since the 2014 Audit, on the plus side the Broomfields Farm development is providing the order of 4.7ha green space, and on the minus side we have lost Helredale playing field (1.6ha), Highfield Road (1.1ha), and the following are under threat of reassignment : Larpool playing field (1.7ha), Rievaulx Road (0.8ha), Calla Beck (0.5ha) … in total 5.7ha. This makes a net loss of around 1.0ha over 8 years, whilst Whitby has a deficit of around 23ha against the local standard. Should progress continue at the same rate Whitby would never achieve the “local standard”, and consequently we consider this unacceptable.

You can view our proposals for green space on this page.