New research from Fields in Trust demonstrate that parks and green spaces across the United Kingdom provide people with over £34 billion of health and wellbeing benefits.
The report comes as the Fields in Trust launches a new five-year strategy Green Spaces for Good - including a foreword from the charity's President, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, who sets out the strategic focus on protecting parks and green spaces for future generations to enjoy.
The new strategic approach is underpinned by research evidence; Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces aims to change perceptions by establishing a baseline for the value that parks and green spaces contribute to health and wellbeing rather than simply being judged by what they cost to maintain. The £34 billion of wellbeing benefits are a result of people enjoying greater life satisfaction including both improved physical and mental health, directly as a result of using regularly using parks and green spaces.
Compiled using HM Treasury approved research methodology, Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces demonstrates National Health Service savings of at least £111 million per year. This figure is based solely on prevented GP visits and doesn't include savings from non-referrals for treatment or prescriptions - meaning the actual savings to the taxpayer will be significantly higher.
The report also calculates that parks provide a total economic value to each person in the UK of just over £30 per year. The value of parks and green spaces is higher for individuals from lower socio-economic groups and also from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. This means that any loss of parks and green spaces will disproportionately impact disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, precisely those who value them the most.
Although hundreds of thousands of people have been out enjoying parks and green spaces over the Bank Holiday weekend, these much-loved community spaces are increasingly at risk - with recent research from The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) showing that 95% of parks professionals are concerned that a lack of investment in them will have health and social impacts. In addition, previous research from Fields in Trust showed that nearly one in five people (16%) say that their local park or green space has been under threat of being lost or built on.
The Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces research is the first time wellbeing benefits associated with parks and green spaces have been calculated so comprehensively, specifically using HM Treasury approved welfare weighting methodology.
Fields in Trust already permanently protects more than 2,700 parks and green spaces in the UK. As part of their new strategy Green Spaces for Good, Fields in Trust are committing themselves to protecting more green spaces, with the aim of 75% of the UK population being within a 10-minute walk of a protected park or green space by 2022.
Helen Griffiths, Chief Executive of Fields in Trust, said: "This report clearly demonstrates the economic and wellbeing benefits that parks and green spaces bring to people across the UK. At a time when parks and green spaces are under threat this is valuable evidence that the loss of green space is hugely damaging to people's welfare.
"The research also confirms that any decision by a public body to remove a park or green space is completely short-sighted – and will in fact likely cost more money than is saved. In health alone parks and green spaces saved the NHS at least £111 million per year through prevented GP visits - enough to pay for more than 3,500 nurses.
"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."