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England’s iconic southern spaces worth billions to society, says new report

by | 30 Jan 24 | Nature & Biodiversity, News

A new report shows that the network of internationally important open spaces managed by the City of London Corporation is worth £282.6 million each year in benefits to society, equating to just over £8bn across 50 years.

The report, published by Natural Capital Solutions calculates the value of the benefits deliverable to the public by these open spaces, including recreational, health and wellbeing, air and water quality and carbon removal benefits.

Festival Gardens St Paul’s Cathedral

It found the overall benefit-to-cost ratio to be 16.4 – meaning for every £1 spent on maintaining and protecting these spaces, they deliver £16.40 in ‘natural capital benefits’ for the public.

Protecting over 11,000 acres of parks, forests, heaths, gardens and historic open spaces across London and southeast England, the City Corporation spends £38m a year on maintaining these spaces.

Many of these sites include a variety of important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation, and National Nature Reserves.

While over 60% of the organisation’s sites comprises Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath- collectively welcoming over 18m visitors a year.

Hampstead Heath was found to be providing creational and health benefits worth almost £50m a year, while the Epping Forest’s carbon removal capability was recorded to be worth £4.5m annually.

West Ham Park

The report found the two sites to be the City Corporation’s highest-performing sites in regards to delivering natural benefits to the public, inclusive of creational and health benefits and carbon capture.

In total, the organisation welcomes almost 50m visitors annually, with their open spaces being recognised by the London in Bloom competition in 2023, and a further 15 taking Green Flag awards.

Chair of the City Corporation’s Natural Environment Board, Caroline Haines says these numbers show “just how much our green spaces mean to the tens of millions of people who enjoy them every year.”

Policy chairman, Chris Hayward adds: “These sites not only have hugely positive impacts on community health and wellbeing, but crucially, they combat climate change, and underpin London’s offer as a leading global city.

“The capital needs to keep pace with this investment in nature and parks to make it a city renowned for its living standards as well as its business prowess.”

The report comes after the City Corporation also announces four new broader environment strategies designed to protect, enhance, and maintain its sites.


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