Discovering the wellbeing value of parks and green spaces in our communities
Fields In Trust commissioned Jump and our collaborators Simetrica to research the health and wellbeing benefits of parks and green spaces. What is their true value? And who in our society can benefit most from them?
Previous research has linked using – and being near – parks and green spaces to increased health and wellbeing. But some of that work also based the value of parks on the fact that nearby house prices were higher.
While higher house prices reveal that parks are indeed valued by people, there is a big risk that the reported increase in wellbeing of people living near those parks is actually due to being wealthier, having a better job and having access to better opportunities – rather than using the park.
For policymakers to bring about change, they need more detailed research.
How did we combat this problem? Jump created the first study of its kind to use ‘welfare weighting’ methods – which should, as a result, allow for policymaking that’s more informed and evidence-based (and in line with Treasury Green Book best practise).
We used a ‘Willingness to Pay’ scenario. This meant asking over 4,000 people nationwide what they would pay to maintain their local park.
The UK average amount was around £2.60 per month. But when we look at different groups and factor in earnings and disposable income (also known as ‘welfare weighting’), the results are a lot more varied:
- Lower socio-economic groups value parks at £4.32 per month (£2.00 unweighted).
- Ethnic minority communities value them at £5.84 per month (£3.05 unweighted).
- Urban residents value parks and green spaces more than the UK average, at £3.93 per month (£2.89 unweighted).
The findings show that parks have most value to urban, low socio-economic and ethnic minority groups.
When you consider we’re at a time when council budgets are under pressure, and where councils are increasingly turning public services into community assets run by volunteers, our findings become even more meaningful.
At Jump, we know that the same communities who value their parks the most are the very same communities who are least able or likely to volunteer. In other words, simply turning the problem over to the community actually risks widening the health and wellbeing gaps in society.
If the government is serious about the racial and health disparities in society, our research shows that strategic investment in parks should focus on urban, low socio-economic areas and areas of ethnic diversity.
– Download the report on our Resources page.