This paper, based on spatial analysis and planning instruments review, presents some of the problems in green spaces planning in Madrid (Spain) throughout the 20th century. Three paradigmatic cases are studied. A profile of each system is presented, describing the background of the urban project, the planning evolution and the characteristics of the current situation. Urban Green Spaces (UGS) provisions of each zone were analyzed and compared. The work focused on the neighborhood level to better understand the critical factors behind the success or failure of UGS planning to determine what system is the most resilient to planning and management changes. The results show that the green structure of the three zones was defined in their respective master plans, but planning was not respected in any of the three cases studied. It appears that the most important factor affecting UGS systems is the building pressure on the territory planned. Guaranteeing the public access and use of such spaces is a very effective planning measure, as well as taking into account natural areas existing, such as forest areas and rivers. This is a strength of planning that helps authorities to design relevant UGS planning, which can then be effectively applied.
Over recent decades, the percentage of people living in cities has increased, which has led to urban sprawl. In accordance with the 2014 revisions of the World Urbanization Prospects (United Nations, 2014), the proportion of the world’s population that is expected to live in urban areas by 2050 is 66% compared with the 54% in 2014. Thus, managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century (Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, 2014). However, the influence of UGS on human health and its wellbeing is well known (Kondo, Fluehr, McKeon, & Branas, 2018; Tzoulas et al., 2007), including on pregnant women and the child’s positive brain development (Dadvand et al., 2017) or in the maintenance of the wellbeing of the elderly (Tilley, Neale, Patuano, & Cinderby, 2017). Hence, it is important to take into account the existence, conservation and maintenance of UGS in urban planning. Urban sprawl is one of the factors that has damaged the suitable development of UGS. Several studies have addressed this question, as well as other problems involving UGS (Erickson, 2004; Taylor, Paine, & FitzGibbon, 1995; Yokohari, Takeuchi, Watanabe, & Yokota, 2000). The great influence of sociodemographic processes on the growth and planning of cities has been studied by various authors. Specifically, many Asian cities have experienced phenomenal urban expansion (Jim, 2004) or Mediterranean cities in a different order of magnitude (Garcia, Garcia, & Atkinson, 2008; Madureira, Andresen, & Monteiro, 2011). This is a phenomenon strongly related to the migration of the population (Sperandelli, Dupas, & Dias Pons, 2013). Further, Lin, Meyers, and Barnett (2015) found that urban consolidation has a negative influence on the amount of space available for tree cover. Thus, urban growth creates a strong pressure on urban green space and causes its fragmentation. A “dramatic drop in capita green space provision in cities with greater population densities” is observed and documented in Fuller and Gaston (2009). According to these authors, green space coverage differs enormously among cities, yet little is known about the correlates of geography of this variation in European cities. Other examples of decline in UGS areas can be found in the city of Porto (Madureira et al., 2011) or in Singapore (Tan, Wang, & Sia, 2013).