news article

Whilst the concept of appointing ‘values’ to greenspace is not new, there have been relatively few examples which examine a broad range of metrics. 

A recent document, jointly written by the Consultancy for Environmental Economics & Policy and Birmingham City Council, provides an insight into the true value of Birmingham’s natural capital, the range of benefits it has and why greenspace represents good value for money.

The headlines from the research include:

  • For every £1 the council invests in its parks and greenspaces, it returns over £24 to society and £1.60 directly to the council through direct parks income such as fees and council taxes.
  • Parks and greenspaces managed by Birmingham City Council have a total net natural capital asset value in the order of £11 billion (over 25 years).
  • The annual net-benefit of Birmingham’s parks and greenspaces to society is nearly £600 million.
  • On average, each resident receives a benefit from council-managed parks and greenspaces worth £520 each year.
  • Physical and mental health benefits provided by Birmingham’s parks and greenspaces are estimated to add more than 3,300 Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) each year (83,000 over 25 years).
  • The total health benefits provided by council-managed parks and greenspaces are valued at nearly £4.6 billion over 25 years.
  • Council-managed woodlands capture more than 350 tonnes of pollutants each year, avoiding approximately 133 hospital admissions, 28 deaths, and adding 489 life years.
  • Parks and greenspaces managed by Birmingham City Council store more than 573,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 with a value of £221 million.
  • Nearly 7,300 council-managed allotments are estimated to produce 2.9 tonnes of food each year with a value of approximately £4.3 million.

This report reinforces the notion that elements of natural capital must not be measured by traditional methods of accounting alone. The positive impacts on society, human wellbeing and the wider environment are frequently overlooked by conventional financial accounting, where publicly owned greenspace is regarded as a net-liability to society and net-expenditure to the council.

This research reinforces the belief that budget decisions for greenspace management based purely on conventional accounts are short-sighted. Assessing the value of natural capital gives a much better estimate of the value parks and greenspaces add to society.

The full article is available here.

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