Wednesday, 9 May 2012, 9:51 AM
A major study conducted by Natural England has found that putting green infrastructure such as parks, gardens and trees at the heart of neighbourhoods can bring significant economic benefits to local areas.
Published in March, the Micro-Economic Benefits of Investment in the Environment (MEBIE) Review collates findings from a number of studies on the economic value of green infrastructure, and is designed to help Natural England staff make the case for the natural environment to decision makers, including those in local authorities.
The evidence contained in the studies suggests that a range of economic benefits can be gained by planning for the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife in urban communities. Findings include:
- People value green infrastructure and will pay a premium for it. Research in Aberdeen found that people were willing to pay up to 19% more for a property on the edge of a park than one 450 metres away. London’s house prices increase with the amount of green space in a ward, roughly equating to a 0.4% increase in price for each 1% increase in the amount of green space.
- Peer-reviewed research shows that people living in areas with more green space tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally. This was found to be the case even after accounting for the tendency of wealthier people to live in more attractive areas. In the UK, lack of exercise is estimated to place a huge burden on the economy of around £8.2 billion a year. Encouraging gym attendance is much less likely to result in long-term behaviour change than promoting walking or cycling from home, and research suggests that people are 24% more likely to be physically active if they have good access to green space.
- Green infrastructure leads to improvement in air quality. It is estimated that poor air quality leads to an average life expectancy reduction of 7 – 8 months in the UK. Research in east London found that planting up 5% of an area measuring 100 km2 would prevent two deaths a year, and two hospital admissions.
- Green infrastructure can help save money at a city scale. In New York money was invested in protecting the main water catchment area instead of building a traditional filtration plant. Although this cost the city $1.5 billion over ten years, it avoided capital costs of $6 billion for a new filtration plant and annual running costs of $300 million.
- Cities can use green infrastructure to prepare for the challenge of climate change. Concrete and other hard surfaces retain heat much more than trees, plants and grass, which substantially increases heat-wave health risks for urban populations. Modelling at the University of Manchester showed that current maximum temperatures in the city centre of 27.9°C were projected to increase by up to 3.7°C by the 2080s. However, they could be kept close to the current maximum by a 10% increase in the green cover in the area. Conversely, if 10% of the green cover were removed temperatures in Manchester could be 7-8°C warmer.
Access Micro-Economic Benefits of Investment in the Environment (MEBIE)
Access the related Natural England press release