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True value of city’s parks and open spaces calculated at £11billion

Published: Tuesday, 23rd July 2019

The value of parks and green estate in Birmingham, in terms of what they offer to all aspects of life in the city, has been calculated as £11billion.

An academic study, led by Birmingham City Council and the Consultancy for Environmental Economics & Policy, reached the conclusion – with the city council now looking at ways to unlock this potential to maximise the benefits for citizens and visitors.

In summary, the key findings of the report, entitled Birmingham Health Economic Assessment & Natural Capital Accounts: Revealing the True Value of Council-managed Parks and Green Estate, are as follows:

  • Parks, greenspaces and allotments (covering an area of 4,700 ha) managed by Birmingham City Council have a total net Natural Capital asset value in the order of £11  billion (over a 25-year period);
  • Each £1 the Council invests in its parks and greenspaces returns over £24 to society
  • Physical and mental health benefits provided by Birmingham’s Parks and Greenspaces are expected to add more than 3,300 Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) each year (83,000 over 25 years);
  • Council-managed woodlands capture more than 350 tonnes of pollutants each year, avoiding approximately 28 deaths, adding 489 life years for citizens and avoiding 133 hospital admissions;
  • The total health benefits provided by Council-managed parks and greenspaces are valued at nearly £4.1 billion (part of the overall £11billion);
  • Parks and greenspaces managed by Birmingham City Council store more than 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 over a 25-year period;
  • Nearly 7,300 Council-managed allotments are estimated to produce 2.9 tonnes of food each year with a value of approximately £4.3million.

Funding of £900,000 for the city, recently announced by National Trust and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and MHCLG, from its ground-breaking Future Parks programme, will be used to shape delivery models for parks services to tap into the full value of such settings.

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks at Birmingham City Council said: “Our parks and open spaces are great places and a jewel in our crown. They are loved by citizens and the many thousands of visitors they attract on a weekly basis.

“Conventional financial accounts only tell part of the story because external benefits provided by Natural Capital are not usually included. What this report does is methodically look at what value they bring from a health, well-being and economic perspective, with staggering positive conclusions.

“The creation and development of parks were hard fought for in the early years of Birmingham’s history as a city 130 years ago. Thanks to that determination and long-term vision we now have 591 parks and open spaces – more than any other European city. As the current generation of custodians, it is our duty to ensure their promise is fully realised.

“The study is a prompt to focus our efforts, working in partnership with community groups and citizens to achieve this. I am excited by what the future holds for our open spaces and look forward to working towards unlocking this potential.”

The full report can be viewed here. A supporting infographic is also available for download.

 

Background notes

Natural Capital is the sum of our ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, soils, minerals, our air and our seas. These are all elements of nature that either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country at large. They do this in many ways but chiefly by providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards.

  • Natural Capital Accounts are a series of interconnected accounts that provide a structured set of information relating to the stocks of Natural Capital and flows of services supplied by them.
  • The Future Parks programme pilot that works as a cross-council strategic project, testing new approaches coupled with people’s views and values held at local level through four community pilots.

Each one is to be led by a strategic city council theme, of housing, skills, children and health. They will help create new policy for the city and different ways to work in future. All pilots will link with the Sport England Local Delivery Pilot projects, so will engage The Active Wellbeing Society. The four pilots are:-

A Skills-led project at Ward End Park and wider neighbourhood; looking at developing future skills requirement for the sector and how to link to the regional jobs programmes, and the national Parks Advisory Group, reporting to Government.

The Health initiative will focus on Perry Common, which is being re-structured through a recent housing scheme. This will involve the local community through Witton Lodge Community Association and a local health centre to trial social prescribing. This will link locally and nationally with Public Health England.

A Housing initiative at two future Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust sites in north Birmingham (Kingstanding and Stockland Green) will look at different ways of integrating urban green space and parks to better serve local communities. Through this the city will be testing the latest Government tools for future development and working closely with the council’s Planning department.

The Children’s Trust are our fourth partner in this project, our fourth community pilot will look to engage with existing projects in south Birmingham around Cotteridge Park, and across Brandwood. The primary focus is going to be around better engaging children and young people.

The fifth lead is working with the council’s Commonwealth Games team - applying all the learning gained from this project and bring it to bear on the Commonwealth Games programme. This will provide new ways to think about the future of Perry Park and the local area as part of the legacy planning from the Games.

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