Our parks and green spaces are precious. Not only do they provide habitats for wildlife, they also help to improve the quality of life of the people with access to them. There have been a number of studies in recent years that have shown the effects of green spaces on health and well-being. For the first time this has been quantified into financial terms by Fields in Trust, a charity organisation dedicated to championing and supporting the UK’s parks and green spaces.
The new research from Fields in Trust, Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces, compiled using HM Treasury approved methodology, has revealed that UK parks and green spaces actually provide £34 billion of wellbeing benefits. This is because making use of parks and green spaces results in greater life satisfaction due to improvements to both physical and mental health. By providing us with a space in which to walk, play sports, and to socialise with friends, or in which to simply take a moment of quiet reflection, they help us to stay both physically and mentally well. They also help to instill a sense of pride in local communities, which leads to lower instances of vandalism and anti-social behaviour, which saves further money.
By breaking this amount down further, the research also shows that the NHS is saved at least £111 million a year because of people making use of parks and green spaces to improve their health, rather than simply visiting their GP. Further money is also saved by non-referrals for treatments and prescriptions for those people who do choose to visit their GP. Rather than closing and building over urban green spaces, continuing to invest in them would have a knock on effect, saving the NHS money, and so freeing cash to spend on extra nurses on wards and new equipment.
The average economic value of the UK’s parks and green spaces totals just over £30 per person each year in the UK, but this amount is higher for individuals from lower socio-economic groups, and black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Because of this variance, loss of parks and green spaces disproportionately impacts the most underrepresented of communities. And these are the very communities that value them the most.
The evidence is now clear: green spaces are good, they do good and they need to be protected for good. That’s why as part of our new strategy Fields in Trust is committing itself to protecting more green spaces, so that people up and down our country, both now and in the future, can continue to benefit from them.
Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust Chief Executive
Following on from this research, Fields in Trust have recently launched their new 5 year plan. This plan centres around an ongoing programme, Green Spaces for Good, and is aimed at protecting all publicly accessible parks, nature reserves and playing fields. They do this by working in partnership with landowners to protect the land through application of a Deed of Dedication. These are legally binding commitments which allow the land to be protected in perpetuity. Whether the landowners are local authorities, voluntary organisations, or private landowners, the parks and green spaces will be around for both current and future generations to enjoy. Established in 1925, the charity organisation has, to date, protected 2735 sites. Their target is to have protected a park or green space within a 10-minute walk of 75% of the UK population by 2022.
When you consider the range of physical, mental and social benefits gained from having access to parks and green spaces, and the financial impacts these benefits have, it is plain that they are places worth protecting. The work being done by Fields in Trust is invaluable.
Visit their website for more information.