Greenspace Scotland has published research showing that every pound invested in a green space scheme returned £7.63 in community benefits.
The charity worked with Central Scotland Forest Trust (CSFT) on the Greenlink project, a cycle path running from Strathclyde Country park to Motherwell town centre. As well as quantifying benefits to conservation volunteers working on site, stakeholders including community police and local authority departments were involved.
The Social Return on Investment (SROI) study assessed the value of impacts such as a reduction in anti-social behaviour, improved health and activities for children.
Greenspace Scotland's SROI project manager Ea O'Neill told HW the aim is eventually to collate similar information on a national level, but cost is an issue. "CSFT had already gathered a lot of information and had conducted two surveys of local residents which we could use," said O'Neill. "We are trying to get as broad a picture as possible."
It is hoped the research can be used by relevant departments in North Lanarkshire Council to leverage more funding to support the Greenlink. The total value calcu-lated during the conservation volunteering project is £976,552. Total investment at the time was £127,906.
Another project - Pacific Garden, in Govan - was also assessed, but it was not possible to accurately value the impacts because of the greater number of residents in-volved and the retrospective nature of the research, said O'Neill.
CABE Space head of public space Peter Neal said it was en-couraging to see value assessed more broadly than in previous UK studies that focused on heath benefits, such as those by Natural England: "It is great to start seeing this level of return."
Parks consultant Bob Ivison added: "We need to get to grips with making these arguments and not just in a green, fluffy way. We need the hard facts and finances."
GreenSpace chief executive Paul Bramhill said the research was useful in protecting parks from service cuts. "To be able to quantify the impacts is critical," he said.
London Parks & Green Spaces Forum director Tony Leach added: "We've been working in a complete vacuum. Now it needs someone to do a bit of brokering with all the organisations like Natural England and the Forestry Commission to pool funding for research."