GUEST BLOG: Taking full account of how coronavirus connects people to nature
Dr Christine Doherty, Lead Officer for Green Infrastructure of Derry & Strabane District
Council writes on developing natural capital accounts, and how the current pandemic has had some positive effect when it comes to people's appreciation of public green spaces...
The recent Coronavirus restrictions have brought into sharp focus how much the public appreciate our local parks. The natural capital value of our key green spaces has increased since lockdown, as people are visiting these spaces even more to get their daily exercise. This has so many positives, helping people achieve the NHS-recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week and giving them the chance to immerse themselves in nature, which various studies have shown is stimulating to mental wellbeing, something that is especially important during this difficult time.
Derry City and Strabane District Council has calculated the true value of their parks and green spaces in the District by creating a Natural Capital Account.
For every £1 the Council spends on its green spaces, it returns more than £22 to society. This equates to £500 of benefit per adult resident per year.
Our report places an annual net value of £75m on Council’s natural capital assets at £49m in mental wellbeing value and £26m in physical health benefits from our parks and green areas. Additional benefits include cleaner air, carbon storage and temperature regulation.
The Natural Capital Account shows that the majority of residents within the District live within 400m of a council-managed green area, a wonderful health resource for local people.
The tourism value and potential of our parks is apparent in that five million visitors and locals flock into local parks each year for recreation. These arenas for physical activity, for play, for relaxing and meeting friends provide incredible opportunities to improve public health and wellbeing by
encouraging longer and more active use of spaces.
Our Natural Capital Account has helped us to change how we work and to make more informed decisions. We are adopting a natural capital approach for several initiatives, to include relevant policies, pollinator plans, greenspace management plans, and capital development projects.
Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Natural Capital Account was funded by Carnegie UK Trust and co-produced by Council, Vivid Economics and the Green Infrastructure Stakeholders who also form part of the Community Planning Partnership.
See www.derrystrabane.com/gi for further information.