Landscape sector highlights societal benefits

Conference hears sector leaders laud benefits of good landscape design for society and economy.

Green-space leaders have used some of the world's finest landscapes to show how pivotal good design is to society and the economy.

Writer Peter Harnik, a director of the Centre for City Park Excellence at the US Trust for Public Land, unveiled findings last week from a survey that spells out just how much green infrastructure rings up for local economies. It runs to hundreds of millions of pounds.

Harnik researched several US cities, he told a parks conference run by the Big and Heritage Lottery Funds. Seven environment factors such as air and health were measured, he said, quoting figures from Denver, with a population of 600,000.

Health savings derived from cleaner air were US $100,000 a year, savings on flooding $800,000 and on improved general health $65m. However, increased spending such as tennis club membership and dog walking racked up a whopping $450m. Collective property values rose $30m.

"Around $6bn of public money is spent annually on parks. We still have a public sector and don't want to lose that. But we are looking at philanthropic donations, self-interested generosity of corporations and setting a legal donation from tax payers."

Harnik called for more evidence. "A transport director has voluminous data to impress the mayor. So they get more and we get less but are told to do more with less. I want to do more with more. If you don't measure you can't manage and if you don't count you won't count."

City of Copenhagen director of parks and nature Jon Pape spoke of a £50m initiative in the Danish capital to modernise parks to double the number and length of visits. Nine-tenths of locals are within 15 minutes of greenery thanks to pocket parks, play areas and large spaces such as the modern Superkilen and the Faelledparken, recently restored for £20m.

"Parks should be run not by volunteers but local authorities," he said. "We wanted an environmental metropolis through green growth to attract new residents and businesses. Firms were willing to contribute to upkeep as long as maintenance budgets were not taken from other parks."

US example shows how quality parks can generate income

"Chicago's Millennium Park, which raised US $250m of private money to match fund money from the government, was the most expensive park ever built in the USA.

"It was revolutionary and generated more than $4bn of new development around it and stimulated downtown living. It is the number-one tourist draw in the USA."

Peter Harnik, director, Centre for City Park Excellence, US Trust for Public Land.

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