Square Mile green spaces worth billions in health and recreational benefits
A new report has revealed that the network of parks, gardens, churchyards, and plazas managed by the City of London Corporation within the Square Mile are worth £126.8 million every year in benefits to society, with a present value of £3.6 billion over 50 years.
The City Corporation is responsible for over 180 individual green spaces within the Square Mile which attract over 21 million visitors every year. They make up a network of 11,000 acres of internationally important open spaces it manages across London and southeast England.
The report, produced by Natural Capital Solutions, calculated the value of the benefits the City Corporation’s open spaces deliver to the public, looking at features such as recreation, health and wellbeing, and air quality.
It found that the recreational and health benefits of the “City Gardens” as a collective were the highest out of the entire portfolio of City Corporation-owned open spaces. The report also found that they deliver a benefit-to-cost ratio of 87.7, which means that every £1 spent on maintenance delivers £87.70 in public benefits.
These sites are important wildlife habitats within a bustling urban landscape, providing a haven for birds, butterflies, and a wide range of other biodiversity. They also provide space for rest and recreation, to help the public relax and be in tune with the natural world.
Among them are 10 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation in the City, (designated for their importance for wildlife and for people to experience nature), and three sites featuring on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Specific Historic Interest in England, which identifies sites of historic significance.
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Natural Environment Board, Caroline Haines, said:
“Despite their relatively small size, these pocket parks and other green spaces really do pack a punch, showing the value they bring to the Square Mile.
“They provide a space to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life – not only for tourists taking a break from sightseeing, but for those who live and work in the City too.
“Many of these small spaces were created out of damage caused by the Great Fire of London or bombing during World War II. Fast forward to today, and places like Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden, and St Dunstan in the East Church Garden, have been transformed into peaceful havens.
“And we’re continuing to invest in these spaces. Both Finsbury Circus, the oldest public park in London, and Jubilee Gardens on Houndsditch are undergoing significant investment to boost the City’s biodiversity and increase its resilience to the impacts of climate change.”
The report found that the wider network of open spaces managed by the City Corporation – including 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 entire open spaces portfolio. 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 Natural Environment Board is the overarching policy and strategic body in relation to the activities of the City Corporation’s Open Spaces Department.
It is also responsible for the day to day management of the gardens, churchyards and green spaces in the City under the control of the Common Council, together with Bunhill Fields Burial Ground.