In the UK, Londoners are by far the least likely to have gardens

West London from the air. Image: Getty.

The Office for National Statistics has released some fascinating data showing the percentage of households in every district in Britain who have access to a private outdoor space. (An earlier version of this piece said gardens, but it’s possible these figures include balconies and so forth too.)

My colleague Michael has already written up the headline findings, noting that ethnic minorities and manual workers were less likely to have private outdoor space than the rest of the population. He also noted that Londoners were the most likely to be living without private outdoor space: 21% of households in the capital don’t have gardens, compared to between 7% and 13% elsewhere in the other nations and regions of the UK.  

But this, if anything, understates quite what an outlier the capital is. In the median local authority, 90.4% of households have gardens: in half the councils in Great Britain, more households have access to gardens; in half of them, fewer do. Literally every London borough has more homes without gardens than that. (The closest to the average is Havering, where 89.7% of households have gardens.) 

The nine councils in which fewest households have gardens are all in London. In five London boroughs – Tower Hamlets, Camden, Westminster, Southwark, Hackney and Islington – that number is under 70%. In the City of London it’s just 7%, though given that this is the City of London we’re talking about it’s almost surprising it’s that high. (Honestly, where are all the houses with gardens hiding in Europe’s biggest financial district?)

The New Statesman’s head of data David Ottwell has turned the data into this map:

That white space in and around central London might offer some insight into why, despite lockdown, the capital’s parks have remained quite so crowded recently: 44% of Londoners live within five minutes of a park,

Two other interesting things I’ve spotted this morning. Firstly, London’s first major new cycle path is open – it’s not, as TfL suggested last week, along Euston Road, but along Park Lane. (The latter has fewer junctions, and so may have been less of a technical challenge to construct.) Here are some pictures, courtesy of the capital’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman:

 

 

Secondly, some cheery traffic stats. Not a single person has been fatally struck by a car in New York City for a record 58 days. In London, meanwhile, there has not been a single such incident in the whole of May. Every cloud, eh?

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.