Green space is a key tool for councils to fulfil their public-health responsibilities, according to the Department of Health's deputy chief medical officer for England.
"Utilisation of green space for exercise/health reasons" is one of the indicators local authorities are measured against in the Government's Public Health Outcomes Framework, the results of which are published by Public Health England.
Professor David Walker said the inclusion shows green space is "in the top tier of priorities".
Speaking at the Local Environments Matter event held in Burgess Park (9 October), Walker said the public health ring-fence could go in two or three years. But in the meantime, he added, the framework is good for transparency and it will be valuable to see how local authorities compare.
"The Government intention is to push the responsibility down locally in support of localism. If people don't agree with the council, they can vote them out," he said.
Other speakers at the event spoke of a sea change regarding health and green space. Paul Farmer, chief executive at mental health charity Mind, said there are opportunities for more smart spending on social prescribing in green spaces.
EcoMinds Green activity for mental health
A University of Essex study questioned participants in the 130 EcoMind projects, which aim to improve mental health through green activities, run by the charity Mind.
The participants were scored on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale.
Led by Rachel Bragg, the study showed that mental health sufferers found their conditions improved after taking part.
Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter led a study tracking changes in well-being that showed urban residents are happier living near parks.