A quarter of people in Southend live in flats, meaning they are less likely to have access to a garden during the Covid-19 lockdown.

That is according to an analysis of government data by the think tank Centre for Cities, which looked at the varying amounts of space – inside and out – available to residents in different urban areas.

It says having enough room is important for people to be able to cope with current restrictions, and that councils should bear this in mind when considering social distancing measures.

The analysis shows that 24% of people in Southend lived in flats in 2019 – although this was below the average of 30% in towns and cities across England and Wales.

The national figure drops to 23% when non-urban areas are included.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “As we all learn to live with the lockdown, having enough inside and outside space is a real help for some people.

“But where housing is the least affordable, people are less likely to have access to their own space – either in a flat or house or in the garden.

“That’s something we know councils will be considering when they weigh up calls to close off green spaces.”

The research also looked at data on the size of public parks and gardens in built-up areas.

It found that those in Southend wanting to do their once-daily exercise would have 14.3 square metres per person, according to 2018 data.

Across England and Wales, the urban area with the most open space per person was Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, with 47.0 square metres, while Worthing in West Sussex had just 3.9 square metres.

Nicola Hodgson, from the charity Open Spaces Society, said the disparity was partly due to a lack of legal requirements around what public outdoor space councils must provide.

She added: “The present restrictions on public movement have highlighted the importance of the accessibility of open space that is near to where people live.

“Going forward it will be important to ensure provision of open space is adequately protected.”

According to the group's findings, Southend residents had an average of 38.0 square metres of residential space per person in 2018.

But this was still slightly more than the average of 35.5 square metres across England and Wales – roughly equivalent to the area of 14 double mattresses.