Natural capital accounts for public green space in London

Londoners live in one of the greenest cities of its size in the world. They have access to an extensive network of public parks and green spaces, though this access varies locally. A greater understanding of the services and benefits that Londoners now enjoy from their public parks and green spaces will help to inform their future management.
However, with constraints on public funding, many are struggling to invest in, and maintain, public green spaces. Thus, it has become a priority to make the best use of precious resources, a public discussion which this study’s findings inform. Into this debate, the report highlights the enormous economic value and benefits provided by public parks and green spaces. It provides a compelling narrative and evidence base for maintaining, or even increasing, investment in London’s public green spaces and motivates policy-makers and decision-makers to explore new sustainable models for funding or financing the provision and maintenance of public parks.
London’s public parks have a gross asset value in excess of ^Alb91 billion. This represents 30 years of value at ^Alb5 billion a year, appropriately discounted. The value of parks reflects their general amenity, benefit to health and opportunity for exercise, and the value of recreation. Individuals, public services and businesses all benefit from public parks across the city. For each ^Alb1 spent by local authorities and their partners on public parks, Londoners enjoy at least ^Alb27 in value. This investment is exceptional value for money, ensuring that London and Londoners benefit enormously from the city’s network of public parks.
The economic benefits from parks are not spread equally across or within London’s boroughs. Some parts of London benefit from having plentiful green spaces, whilst others are lacking in this important resource. This results in important inequalities of opportunities for leisure and health outcomes. Taking this into account, future investments can be targeted spatially to correct this inequality. The act of valuation helps to highlight these inequalities.
Londoners avoid ^Alb950 million per year in health costs due to public parks. public parks create opportunities for people to exercise, socialise, relax and enjoy being part of their community. In doing so, people improve their physical and mental health. This total avoided cost is made up of ^Alb580 million per year by being in better physical health and ^Alb370 million per year by being in better mental health. The health benefits of London’s public parks amount to 20 per cent of their total economic value. In recent years, the importance of parks for health has been receiving attention, particularly for important disease classes where exercise matters, such as heart disease and diabetes. Here, the emphasis is similarly on mental health, which deserves equal attention.
The value of recreational activities is estimated to be ^Alb926 million per year. London’s public parks provide many opportunities for recreational activities that people enjoy, including sporting activities and enjoyment of natural and cultural heritage.
Public parks supply other services too, such as temperature regulation and carbon storage. Green spaces in urban areas counter higher temperatures in summer months that can lead to ill health. Natural and semi-natural parkland also provide global benefits as a store of carbon in soil and trees.



Geographic Coverage



Vivid Economics for Greater London Authority, National Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund: 2017