Research funded by the Carnegie UK Trust has found that green and blue infrastructure owned by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) will provide £1 billion in benefits designed to improve the wellbeing of local citizens in the local authority area over the next decade.
The findings were highlighted today at the launch of council’s Natural Capital Account during a special meeting of the Strategic Growth Partnership. The Trust is currently providing support to DCSDC’s Strategic Growth/Community Planning Partnership via participation in its Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland project.
The report, which was funded by the Trust, was developed by Vivid Economics in conjunction with the council and Community Planning stakeholders. It is accompanied by a Green Infrastructure Plan which aims to protect, improve and increase green spaces (vegetated areas) and blue spaces (waterways), to provide a multitude of environmental, recreational, economic, health and wellbeing benefits for the public.
The report places an annual net value of £75 million on the natural capital assets owned by the local authority, with £49 million in mental wellbeing value, and £26 million in physical health value. In addition, it estimates that for every £1 spent by the council on green spaces, this provides £22 in return to society.
Potential benefits include cleaner air and water; improved physical, mental health and wellbeing; carbon storage, temperature and flood risk regulation; and improved access to green and blue spaces for recreation.
As the first report of its kind to be published in Northern Ireland, the Trust hopes that it will inspire other councils and Community Planning Partnerships to look to their natural capital as an untapped resource which can be used to improve the wellbeing of citizens in a simple and cost-effective way.
Officially launching the report, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said: ‘The report will help to inform and improve decision making by framing public green spaces as economic assets, which will highlight the range and value of their benefits for the District’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
‘I want to commend the work that has gone into shaping this report which highlights Council’s ongoing prioritisation of the environment and developing new and innovative approaches to combatting environmental challenges. I also want to thank the Carnegie UK Trust for their support of our efforts to improve local health and wellbeing through our Community Planning process.’
Aideen McGinley, Trustee of the Carnegie UK Trust and Chair of the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland project Advisory Group, said: ‘The Carnegie UK Trust is delighted to have supported the council in delivering cutting edge research that has the potential to change the way we value, use and invest in our greenspace.
‘The findings highlight the opportunity that working in partnership and the role Community Planning can play in delivering positive outcomes across the board, such as mental wellbeing, physical health, and environmental sustainability, in a way that makes economic sense.
‘It has the potential to change how we deliver public services, but key to doing this is having the evidence and information to make important decisions. We hope that this report will inspire policy makers to look at things differently, collaboratively, and deliver real and tangible outcomes that will improve the wellbeing of local people in their everyday lives’.