From Mark Easton's blog at the BBC:
What proportion of Britain do you reckon is built on? By that I mean covered by buildings, roads, car parks, railways, paths and so on - what people might call "concreted over". Go on - have a guess...
The 80% of us who live in towns and cities spend an inordinate amount of time staring at tarmac and brick. On most urban roads, one can be tricked into thinking that the ribbon of grey we see reflects the land use for miles around. But when you look out of a plane window as you buckle-up ahead of landing at a UK airport, the revelation is how green the country appears.
So what is the answer to my question - have you got a figure in your head?
Until recently, conflicting definitions have made the calculation tricky but fortunately, a huge piece of mapping work was completed last summer - the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) (pdf). Five hundred experts analysed vast quantities of data and produced what they claim is the first coherent body of evidence about the state of Britain's natural environment.
Having looked at all the information, they calculated that "6.8% of the UK's land area is now classified as urban" (a definition that includes rural development and roads, by the way). The urban landscape accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales.
Put another way, that means almost 93% of the UK is not urban. But even that isn't the end of the story because urban is not the same as built. In urban England, for example, the researchers found that just over half the land (54%) in our towns and cities is greenspace - parks, allotments, sports pitches and so on.
Furthermore, domestic gardens account for another 18% of urban land use; rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs an additional 6.6%. In England, "78.6% of urban areas is designated as natural rather than built". Since urban only covers a tenth of the country, this means that the proportion of England's landscape which is built on is...
Click and highlight to reveal: 2.27%.