DERRY and Strabane Council’s green spaces will yield £1billion of benefits in terms of mental and physical wellbeing over the next decade according to a new report.
The findings were highlighted as the Natural Capital Account of Derry and Strabane’s natural resources was unveiled today at a special meeting of the Strategic Growth Partnership for Derry City and Strabane District.
Council’s Lead Officer for Green Infrastructure, Dr Christine Doherty, presented the Natural Capital Report, which was supported by Carnegie UK Trust, to partners representing a wide range of community and statutory organisations tasked with the delivery of the Strategic Growth Plan for Derry and Strabane.
The account was developed by Vivid Economics, in conjunction with Council and its Green Infrastructure Stakeholders, which form part of the Community Planning Partnership.
Natural capital describes components of the natural environment, which provides economic benefits for people.
Natural capital accounting is an approach to estimating the economic benefits provided by greenspaces, particularly for public health and wellbeing.
The report places an annual net value of £75m on Council’s natural capital assets with £49m in mental wellbeing value, and £26m in physical health value.
It estimates that for every £1 spent by Council on green spaces, this provides £22 in return to society.
Among the potential benefits include cleaner air and water; improved physical, mental health and well-being; carbon storage, temperature and flood risk regulation; and improved access to green and blue spaces for recreation.
Officially launching the plan, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said: “The report will help to inform and improve decision making by framing public green spaces as economic assets, which will highlight the range and value of their benefits for the District’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
“I want to commend the work that has gone into shaping this report which highlights Council’s ongoing prioritisation of the environment and developing new and innovative approaches to combatting environmental challenges.
“I also want to thank the Carnegie UK Trust for their support of our efforts to improve local health and wellbeing through our Community Planning process.”
Aideen McGinley, Trustee of the Carnegie UK Trust and Chair of the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland Project Advisory Group, said: “The Carnegie UK Trust is delighted to have supported Council in delivering cutting edge research that has the potential to change the way we value, use and invest in our greenspace.
“The findings highlight the opportunity that working in partnership and the role Community Planning can play in delivering positive outcomes across the board, such as mental wellbeing, physical health, and environmental sustainability, in a way that makes economic sense.
“It has the potential to change how we deliver public services, but key to doing this is having the evidence and information to make important decisions.
“We hope that this report will inspire policy makers to look at things differently, collaboratively, and deliver real and tangible outcomes that will improve the wellbeing of local people in their everyday lives.”
Vivid Economics is an economics consultancy specialising in advising on complex policy and commercial questions. Caroline Vexler from Vivid explained that work on the account was carried out in close consultation with local stakeholders.
“Vivid produced an economic assessment of the services that DCSDC’s greenspaces provide to residents, highlighting the resultant health and wellbeing outcomes.
“We used innovative valuation methodologies based on our analysis of urban greenspace use patterns from locational data as part of the development of the Greenkeeper Tool.
“We also delivered a set of recommendations, highlighting opportunities for increasing the benefits of green infrastructure and aiming to inspire new ways of working across public services to deliver shared outcomes.”
To find out more about the Natural Capital Account and Council’s Green Infrastructure Plan go to www.derrystrabane.com/gi