More than just a walk in the park

February 28, 2020

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Dr Christine Doherty, Biodiversity Officer, Derry & Strabane District Council

Parks are more than just pretty places to go for a stroll. The impact they have on our health; on our mental and physical wellbeing is immense.

Derry City and Strabane District Council have put a price on the true value of their parks and green spaces in their District by creating a cutting-edge Natural Capital Account with surprising results.

For every £1 the Council spends on its green spaces, it returns more than £22 to society. We all know that spending time in the great outdoors is good for us but this equates to a staggering £500 of benefit per adult resident per year. This includes £49m in mental wellbeing value & £26m in physical health benefits from these parks and green areas.

Not only are these green areas good for clearing the head and getting fit; but their environmental worth is also tremendous with 60,000 tonnes of carbon storage provided by Council managed woodland each year encompassing approximately 160,000 trees – equivalent to one per person in the District. This makes our air cleaner and helps wildlife while simultaneously helping temperature and flood risk regulation. As a society in a state of climate emergency, this impact is indispensable.

This account also identifies how incredibly lucky local residents are in terms of ease of access to the 800 hectares green spaces and the abundance of woodland and waterways with 57% of householders living within 200m of a Council managed green area. Living close to a park does no harm to property value either with residential properties adjacent to green spaces higher than those in less green areas improving the look and feel of communities.

The tourism value and potential of our parks must not be downplayed with five million visitors and locals flocking into local parks each year for recreation; these gateways for physical activity, for play, for relaxing and meeting friends provide incredible opportunities to improve public health and wellbeing by encouraging longer and more active use of spaces.

Our quality, award-winning parks are key destination marketing assets too with St Columb’s Park and Brooke Park providing urban sanctuaries in the heart of Derry City; like mini Central Parks. Investing further in our parks could further increase benefits by attracting new visitors and helping local health outcomes.

Having this Natural Capital Account will change how we work across our public services, deliver shared goals and will help us make more informed decisions. It is our artillery to support the delivery of the GI Plan and Community Plan. It is a cast iron guarantee that the value for money provided by our green spaces far outweighs the cost of intervention giving us a solid business case for future investment. This clever calculation is more than just a walk in the park.

 

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Natural Capital Account was funded by Carnegie UK Trust and co-produced by Council, Vivid Economics and the GI Stakeholders who also form part of the Community Planning Partnership. It calculates the value of GI assets that would have been traditionally seen as qualitative wellbeing benefits.

See www.derrystrabane.com/gi for further information.

 

Background:

DCSDC developed a Green Infrastructure Plan 2019 – 2032 with the vision to assist with the delivery of actions under the three pillars of the Community Plan and the development of the Local Development Plan 2032. It is linked to the strategic commitments of the 12 indicators and 18 of the 42 Programme for Government outcomes. It was co-designed and agreed with the Community Plan partners in February 2019.

An action from the GI Action Plan was to create a Natural Capital Account (NCA) for the District, to assist with the delivery of the GI Plan and Community Plan, to show the value that our public green and blue spaces provides for public health and wellbeing, wider society and the environment. Natural capital describes components of the natural environment (including green spaces) that provides economic benefits to people, for example, cleaner air and water; improved physical, mental health and well-being; carbon storage, temperature and flood risk regulation; and improved access to green and blue spaces for recreation. A NCA is a new radical approach, which calculates the economic value and benefits of the wide range of benefits provided by public parks and green spaces for people.