Derry council first to launch Natural Capital Account of greenspaces that will provide £1.7 billion over next decade

Derry City and Strabane District Council today became the first local Council in the north to develop a Natural Capital Account (NCA) to include all outdoor recreation greenspaces across the District.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 4:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 4:32 pm
The lower reservoir with Creggan Country Park in the distance.

The launch of the account was welcomed by the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, who joined the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, online for a special webinar setting out the detail of the research and its potential impact on local health and wellbeing.

The detailed exploration of the City and District's natural assets was undertaken by Council, its Green Infrastructure Plan Stakeholders and economists Vivid Economics, and was funded by DAERA.

The work builds on the initial findings of the Natural Capital Account by Council in 2019, which focused specifically on Council owned sites and highlighted the value of natural green and blue spaces in relation to the environmental, health and wellbeing benefits for local citizens.

The concept of Natural Capital was developed to help improve environmental decision making by attributing economic value to our natural assets, and ascertaining their health benefits in terms of improving the physical and mental wellbeing of those who live here.

These benefits, which were set out today during the webinar by Council's Lead officer for Green Infrastructure, Dr. Christine Doherty, can include cleaner air and water, improved physical health, mental health and wellbeing, carbon storage, temperature regulation and flood risk regulation.

She explained that during the COVID-19 pandemic even more emphasis has been placed on the importance of publicly-accessible greenspaces and how they can support a healthy economy and social recovery.

Visits to Council owned green spaces have surged by 30% over the last year as they've played an invaluable role in supporting safe recreation and social interactions.

Welcoming today's NCA launch, Mayor Tierney said that the City and District had a strong collective portfolio of environmental assets shared by Council and its Green Infrastructure Plan partners. "Our Council District spans an expansive rural area of natural beauty and across our city, towns and settlements we are lucky to enjoy a rich supply of green and open recreation spaces.

"There are over 9,000 ha of public accessible greenspace for recreation provision within the Council area. This attracts 8.5 million visitors per annum and provides what equates to £141m in benefits per annum for those who use them. This in turn will provide £1.7 billion over the lifetime of our Green Infrastructure Plan 2019-2032 and the Strategic Growth Plan for the area, which has a strong environmental framework on which we can build."

Council's Director of Environment & Regeneration, Karen Phillips, thanked the Department for supporting the work: "I would like to thank the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs for funding this project under their Environmental Challenge Fund and also thank the Green Infrastructure stakeholders for their assistance in providing datasets for the development of NCA.

"This report has helped us to improve our understanding of the importance of access to greenspace within the District, with 98% of urban residents living within 1km of a publicly accessible greenspace. It highlights how developing a Natural Capital Account of outdoor recreation greenspaces can promote the use of local greenspaces and assist with decision making by improving our understanding of the economic value of public, accessible green and blue spaces."

Speaking before the webinar today, Minister Poots, said: "This report will help reinforce the importance of access to nature and its link to public health and wellbeing and to the economy. I want to thank everyone involved in developing this report as it will provide many bodies with further evidence to shape the development of additional sustainable natural green and blue space and corridors across this council area and Northern Ireland, connecting people to their environment, to each other and to the services they need."

You can view the full Natural Capital Account report at www.derrystrabane.com/gi