New £1m toolkit launched that assesses economic value of green infrastructure in cities

The planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore has partnered with Vivid Economics and the University of Exeter to deliver the toolkit and aims to protect, maintain and create green spaces, such as parks, gardens, street trees, rivers and canals. 

Recognising the value of protecting, maintaining and creating green spaces, such as parks, gardens, street trees, rivers and canals, is seen as key to physical and mental well-being, supporting recreation and community events, as well providing space for wildlife, absorbing rainwater and tackling air pollution.

Previous work undertaken by Vivid Economics for the Greater London Authority involved assessing the economic value of London’s public parks. This study revealed that London’s public green spaces bring at least £5bn worth of value each year - or £27 of value for every £1 spent by tax payers.

But that remains one of the few research-led pieces of work that underlines its importance. Up to now, it has been difficult for those who influence the future of green spaces, such as urban designers and planners, to make a clear business and policy case for why investment in these spaces is beneficial. As a result, green space is rarely given enough weight in decisions, leading to lack of investment, under provision, loss of opportunity, and even over provision of the wrong type of green space.

A variety of data and metrics need to be processed to accurately put monetary values on the benefits created by urban green spaces. This is an expensive and time-consuming process that requires depth of expertise and access to big data sets. 

In order to help decision-makers overcome this hurdle, the economic consultancy Vivid Economics has teamed up with Barton Willmore and researchers at the University of Exeter to create an innovative and easy-to-use toolkit. 

It will calculate location-specific economic values of the health, social and environmental benefits of urban green infrastructure. The project has been awarded funding by Innovate UK, the government agency supporting businesses to realise the potential of new technologies and commercial ideas.

Therese Karger-Lerchl, who is co-leading the development of the toolkit at Vivid Economics said: “Once we were able to provide credible estimates for valuing London’s parks, we realised the importance of being able to roll out this idea so that all green infrastructure in urban spaces could be accurately valued. This will help those investing in and maintaining green infrastructure to make informed decisions about how they spend their budgets.”

John Haxworth, of Barton Willmore, added: “Working closely with developers and local authorities across the UK, the pressures upon our open spaces are huge, but it is notoriously difficult to demonstrate the value they add comprehensively. We believe this toolkit can build upon the plethora of academic work in this area, marrying it with experience of public and private sector needs, to provide an effective methodology for calculating and more fully understanding the benefits and effectiveness of open space, in a manner way beyond quantum alone.”

The project remains at the inception stage, with the finished product to be available in October 2019. The project team are keen to hear from urban stakeholders in order to build and tailor the toolkit according to the needs of local authorities and developers.

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