New report: Hampstead Heath worth over a billion pounds to society
A new report has revealed that Hampstead Heath – which is managed by the City of London Corporation as a registered charity – is worth £51.2 million every year in benefits to society, with a present natural capital value of £1.5 billion over 50 years.
The Heath forms part of the 11,000 acres of open space owned and protected by the City Corporation across London and southeast England. It attracts around 8.1 million visits every year.
The report, produced by Natural Capital Solutions, calculated the value of a number of benefits the City Corporation’s open spaces deliver to the public, including through recreation, health and wellbeing, air and water quality, and by removing carbon from the atmosphere.
It found that, in terms of natural capital, Hampstead Heath has a benefit-to-cost ratio of 8.4, which means that every £1 spent on maintenance delivers £8.40 of these types of public benefits.
It is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, with rare and flourishing wildlife and habitats with more than 25,000 trees – 450 of which are ancient or veteran – over 650 species of fungi, 27 species of butterfly, eight species of dragonfly and damselfly, and grass snakes.
It provides access to a number of facilities for physical activity and recreation, including the newly refurbished Parliament Hill athletics track.
The track hosts elite UK running events including the Women’s and Men’s UK 10,000m Championships, and the trials for the 10,000m World Championships and European Cup.
The Heath also has an education centre which reaches almost 8,000 students per year, extensive children's play facilities, rugby and cricket pitches, tennis courts, a bowling green, a croquet lawn, all-weather table tennis tables, a Lido, and three bathing ponds.
Its famous Ladies' and Men's Bathing Ponds are the UK’s only lifeguarded open-water swimming facilities, open to the public all year round, and recently underwent a £900,000 investment to improve accessibility and safety.
Chair of the City Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, and Queens Park Committee, William Upton KC, said:
“Hampstead Heath provides great benefits which are often under-recognised. For the first time, this assessment puts a figure on the huge value they represent for society.
“Situated just six kilometres from the centre of our capital, it attracts millions of people every year – not just locally, but internationally, too. We place great importance on our stewardship of the Heath, and this report helps us put things in a wider perspective, and benchmark our work to maintain and preserve the Heath for future generations.”
The report found that the wider network of open spaces managed by the City Corporation – including Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest, and 180 smaller sites in the City of London – are worth £282.6 million each year in benefits to society overall, and £8.1 billion over 50 years.
The organisation spends £38 million a year on maintaining its open spaces. Many of these sites operate as charitable trusts and are run at little or no cost to the communities they serve.
They include a wide variety of critically important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation, and National Nature Reserves, and are protected under legislation.
In total, these sites are home to 58,000 ancient trees, capture over 16,000 tonnes of carbon every year and attract over 47 million visitors annually – over three times the number who go to Premier League football matches every season, and almost eight times the number of annual visitors to the Grand Canyon.
These open spaces won five honours in 2023’s London in Bloom competition, with a further 15 taking Green Flag awards, recognising them as some of the best managed green spaces in the world. They host education courses reaching tens of thousands of school children every year.
They are an important part of the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy which commits the organisation to achieving net zero carbon emissions in its own operations by 2027, and to supporting the achievement of net zero for the whole Square Mile by 2040.
Notes to editors
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk.
Natural Capital is the sum of all the elements of nature that either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country at large.
The Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen's Park Committee manages Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park.
The City of London Corporation became the custodian of Hampstead Heath in 1989, following the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986.
The Heath is a registered charity (No. 803392) and relies on substantial funding from the City Corporation, along with revenue generated though services, various grants and donations. The objective of the charity is the preservation of Hampstead Heath for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.