Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best Green Space/Infrastructure Strategy

Winner - Jon Sheaff & Associates for London Borough of Croydon Natural Capital Account

Jon Sheaff and Associates for London Borough of Croydon, London Borough of Croydon

Croydon is projected to be London's second most populous borough by 2041. Understanding the established link between good quality greenspace and enhanced health outcomes and avoidable health costs, the London Borough of Croydon commissioned Jon Sheaff and Associates to develop a Natural Capital account for the borough with a particular focus on public health, supporting a strategic approach to the management of health outcomes delivered by the council's green infrastructure assets.

The team carried out two quality assessments of 128 parks and open spaces across the south London borough. The open space assessment considered the quality of open spaces against a range of national quality criteria based on PPG 17 and 'Green Flag', which showed where investment could raise quality and deliver better outcomes for health.

The parallel assessment of habitat quality was based on criteria set out in the National Vegetation Classification. Each park and greenspace was sub-divided by vegetation type and the quality of each vegetation type assessed. This provided the practice with the data that forms the Natural Capital Asset Register, which is the first building block of the NCA.

The Natural Capital Asset Register is supplemented by data from other UK datasets to create a Physical Flow Account that assess the value of recreation visits, the uplift in property value and the climate regulation functions provided by green infrastructure. This study also took a detailed look at health data from GP records at a local level, focusing on four disease types, the incidence of which is known to be strongly affected by use of greenspace - circulatory disease (including cardio-vascular disease and stroke), Type II diabetes, childhood obesity and clinical depression. In this way the team established a correlation between park quality and health outcomes.

The team developed a Monetary Flow Account which ascribes a value to all of the benefits accruing from green infrastructure assets across Croydon and the value of these assets in perpetuity. The Maintenance Cost Account establishes the annual cost of maintaining the benefits identified in the Physical Flow Account and the cost of sustaining these benefits in the future. By comparing the value of the benefits accruing from green infrastructure in perpetuity against the cost of maintaining these benefits in perpetuity, the team developed a Natural Capital Balance Sheet for Croydon. In Croydon the value of benefits accruing from green infrastructure outweighs to cost of sustaining these benefits by a factor of approximately 15 to 1. The NCA for Croydon will help the council to make more informed decisions about the joint resourcing of open space and wellbeing services and will be used to attract additional external funding for greenspace, including potential funding from the NHS.

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