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Spending £5.5bn To Expand Access To Green Space Could Reap £200bn In Benefits, Say Experts

July 23rd, 2020

The Government should invest £5.5bn in expanding public access to green space across the country, a coalition of politicians and conservation charities has said.

Improving access to urban green spaces – particularly in the Midlands and the North where city parks are scarcer – could reward policymakers with £200bn in physical and mental health benefits, according to the group.

Green infrastructure fund

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” the country’s infrastructure lies at the heart of his government’s agenda. Organisations including the National Trust, Sustrans and Create Streets have now joined forces with regional politicians including the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees to urge him to apply this thinking to green spaces.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, they call for the creation of an ‘urban green infrastructure fund’, which would fund measures such as street planters, upgrades to existing parks and the creation of new regional parks and forests on urban fringes.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “Now is the time for Government to be bold and ambitious for the future, investing in the upgrade, extension and connection of the vital green infrastructure of towns and cities, just as it is doing for transport infrastructure.”

Benefits of green space

City parks have emerged as a vital public service during lockdown, particularly for the many millions of people without access to a garden. Visits to public parks and green spaces jumped 25 per cent this May compared to May 2018.

But hundreds of thousands of people across the country, often those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, live in “grey deserts” with no access to green space, the organisations argue.

Tackling this problem would deliver a huge economic boost to deprived regions, according to an analysis by Vivid Economics and Barton Wilmore commissioned by the group.

Physical and mental health benefits could total £200bn, while the programme of works would create 40,000 temporary construction jobs and 6,000 permanent posts, the report suggests. Nearly a third of the UK – around 20 million people – would feel the benefit of a parks expansion programme, it concludes.

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