What is greenspace worth to local people and the economy?
Many government documents acknowledge the important role of green infrastructure in sustainable development and for creating attractive and economically vibrant communities. Forest Research carried out a critical review of the evidence that greenspace initiatives deliver direct and indirect economic benefits.
Key findings and recommendations
A growing number of studies confirm the existence of benefits derived from greenspace, but few provide economic estimates. The assessment formulated the following estimates of economic benefit:
- Economic growth and investment: £1 invested in the Mersey Forest will generate £2.30 in increased gross value added (GVA) over the assumed investment horizon (50 years)
- Land and property values: a percentage point increase in greenspace land use in a census ward increases property prices by around 1%
- Regional and local economic regeneration: each £1 of public money invested in greenspace projects was found on average to lever in £4.20 in private investment
- Labour market employment and productivity: no good quantitative evidence
- Tourism: site-specific benefits, based on visitor survey data
- Recreation and leisure: no robust evidence, but willingness-to-pay estimates ranged on average from £1 to £9 per person per visit (depending on distance travelled)
- Health and well-being: a single study gave tentative estimates per person per year ranging from £12-£39 for physical exercise (more than three hours of vigorous activity per week) to £135-£452 for having a view of greenspace from home (versus no view)
- Quality of place: no good quantitative evidence
- Water management: a single study estimated the present value of benefits of woodlands for flood management and erosion reduction over 100 years of about £180,000 for 85 hectares of woodland created in the Pickering Beck catchment in North Yorkshire
- Products from the land: 1,000 hectares of woodland supports four FTE jobs and a GVA estimate of £46,600 per FTE for the forestry sector
- Biodiversity: estimates from £0.35-£1.13 per household per year for 12,000 hectares (depending on woodland type)
- Legacy-based non-use value: £219/ha for National Trust countryside, £190/ha for RSBP reserves and £53/ha for National Trust for Scotland countryside
- Climate change adaptation and mitigation: estimated present value of climate regulation benefits over 100 years of £2.8 million, for 85 hectares of woodlands near Pickering
- Best practice guidelines for valuation and impact assessment will make the findings of future studies more suitable for value transfer
- Where a project involves both landscape and built environment interventions, separating out estimates of net values associated with the greenspace component would be particularly useful
- Interdisciplinary research is required to fill evidence gaps
The Forest Research team performed its assessment based on a comprehensive review of all published economic benefit valuations for greenspace and green network projects.
Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission
The project was completed in 2011.