Glasgow is the UK’s least green city, according to scientists, with Middlesborough, Sheffield, Liverpool and Leeds also in the bottom five.
In contrast, Exeter is the British city with the most green space, beating Islington, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge to claim the top spot as Britain's greenest urban area.
Scientists from the University of Sheffield and Flinders University in Australia factored in tree cover and amount of vegetation as well as public green spaces such as parks and sports pitches in 68 city centres that were home to more than 100,000 people around the UK.
There is a clear north-south divide, the scientists say, with the top five greenest areas in the south of England and the five least green in the north of England or Scotland.
The scientists crunched all the different data points into one overall average, called the NDVI (normalised difference vegetation index), with Exeter scoring 0.15 and Glasgow 0.02.
Analysis of the city centres reveals that Sheffield, which sits on the edge of the Peak District and is touted as one of the nation’s greenest areas, actually has quite a built-up centre due to its rich industrial history.
Other northern industry powerhouses also rank poorly, a likely hangover from the many factories that were built in the 20th century.
Glasgow, Britain’s ship-building experts, is last place; Sheffield, the Steel City, came in 65th; Birmingham, once the home of British motoring, came in 48th; Stoke-On-Trent, the pottery capital of the UK was 49th; Nottingham, known for textiles, is 45th.
Dr Paul Brindley, senior author of the study from the University of Sheffield, said 70 per cent of the global population is expected to be living in cities by 2050.
“The fact that all five of the greenest city centres are in the south of England, whilst the five city centres with the least green attributes are in the north of Great Britain, clearly highlights the need to urgently improve the greenness of city centres at the bottom of the list, and to ensure that action is taken by local authorities to close the gap,” he said.
“While previous studies have measured greenness in broader suburban areas, our study focuses on city centres where people of diverse backgrounds spend much time at work, recreation and shopping,” added co-author Dr Jake Robinson from Flinders University.
“While people’s lives are enhanced by the greenness of their city, many cities have high tree densities in the suburban areas but not their urban centres.
“Not surprisingly, the urban centres with higher tree and vegetation cover, public green spaces including parks and sports fields, have developed after more focus on urban planning rather than urban sprawl and industrial growth, and now have lower levels of deprivation in general, including in human health metrics.”
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.