This article was originally published on the Guardian.
“Sheffield city council’s balance sheet shows its parks as a £16m liability. Traditional accountancy methods focus on a park’s saleable value, or its operational costs associated with maintenance. So England’s 27,000 parks are considered as financial liabilities rather than the amazing asset to our health and wellbeing that any of their 37 million regular users could vouch for. They also deliver a range of ecosystem services such as improved air and water quality, flood risk mitigation by absorbing water run-off, and cooling the urban environment as well as providing much-needed habitat for wildlife. By using a “natural capital” accounting approach that puts a value on all these social, environmental and economic contributions, Sheffield discovered that for every £1 spent on its parks, they generate £34 of benefits.