The natural environmental underpins health, wellbeing and prosperity, so how can we better use and enhance our natural capital and resources?

How do we distinguish space and how we use it?

How do we connect communities and custodians with sharable geospatial data and standards?


4.1 Valuing natural assets


Problem


There’s a reluctance to pay for, and value nature. Greenspaces are viewed as costs rather than assets. However, these community spaces are under threat: They aren’t being properly cared for – particularly in poorer areas – and they need decision-makers and custodians to improve them. However, local citizens aren’t empowered or connected enough to take part in local improvement action.


Why it matters


‘Natural capital’ is a way of putting monetary value to natural assets. According to this accountancy, UK’s ecosystems could be adding an extra £30 billion a year to the economy, and neglecting these natural assets could cost the UK economy over £20 billion a year. Most councils value public parks on their list of assets at only £1, when parks alone are estimated to be worth £108 million (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2009).


Local authorities are not legally obliged to provide for parks and green spaces, so slip down the political agenda. Nationally, funding to improve run-down parks is difficult to find. Funding for these spaces was reduced by approximately £1.3 billion in the two decades up to the millennium (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2006).


Citizen hours spent volunteering across England in parks and greenspace is worth between £22 million and £28 million each year (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2010). International examples of New Zealand and Australia have found that accounting for their parks’ social and environmental value has helped provide stronger cases for their maintenance funding (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2009).


References


4.2 Enabling data access and use


Problem


Local authorities hoard a mass of data including social care, waste collection and procurement. However, it’s not always comprehensible or accessible to the public.


Among other things, this includes location and accessibility of green spaces, their quality and usability.

This data needs to be improved to make it easier for services and resources to be used to benefit all members of society; and turned into actionable information to empower communities.


Why it matters


The right local council data can be highly beneficial for making informed decisions about allocation of resources and insight into solutions for social problems. There’s a lack of accurate information about the quantity and quality of parks and green spaces in urban England, where they are and who owns them (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2010). For every £1 spent by councils on geospatial data use, they receive £4 as a return on investment (Symons, 2016).


References


4.3 Evidencing greenspace value


Problem


Communities rely on councils to provide and maintain their recreational greenspaces. If these are privatised, ownership could change and access could be limited.


Greenspaces need more custodians, and need to be valued with enough evidence to convince top decision-makers who pay for its maintenance. Otherwise, these spaces may not receive adequate care and fall into decline.


Value has to be measured in terms of citizen benefit and not just accounting costs, and this data needs to be shared on a local level to benefit all members of society.


Why it matters


Over 37 million people regularly use parks in the UK, and over half the population visits their local park at least once a month (Heritage Lottery Fund, 2016). According to ‘natural capital’ which accounts monetary value from natural assets, UK’s ecosystems, including greenspace, could be adding an extra £30 billion a year to the economy in health and wellbeing – and neglect of these natural assets could cost the UK economy over £20 billion a year. Most councils value public parks on their list of assets at only £1, when parks alone are estimated to be worth £108 million (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2009).


In the City of Edinburgh, the council reports that for every £1 invested in their parks £12 is returned in social, environmental and economic benefits (The City of Edinburgh Council, 2015).


References


Other 2017 Challenge themes

Improve health and wellbeing
Support the local economy
Enable sustainable living

Collaborators

Innovate UK

The UK's innovation agency. Innovate UK funds and supports science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

gov.uk

NWG

Northumbrian Water aims to be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and waste water services.

nwl.co.uk