Parks and green spaces generate health benefits worth a total of £34 billion annually*, research by Fields in Trust charity has suggested.

Their latest report, Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces, which was compiled using HM Treasury approved methodology, calculated that the public would need to spend £974 each year to achieve the same level of life satisfaction they get from parks if they were not there.

The charity, which protects green spaces, also found that parks save the NHS approximately £111m a year. The total cost saved by the NHS is based only on prevented GP appointments and does not include savings from non-referrals for treatments and prescriptions, so this is likely to be even higher.

Dr Julia Reid MEP has welcomed the findings of the report, which comes at a time when 95% of park professionals say they are concerned about the lack of investment in green spaces and 16% of people believe their local park is under threat of being built on.

“Hopefully the findings of this report will make the local authorities think twice before deciding to sell off priceless parks and green spaces which are now estimated to generate health benefits worth approximately £974 per annum for each person who has access to them.

“Needless to say, we in UKIP have, for a long time, recognised the health benefits that green and open spaces bring to their local communities; this is why we pledged to amend planning legislation to promote inclusion of trees and open space into new developments in our 2017 General Election Manifesto.

This is also why I’ve condemned, and will continue to condemn, any authority which seeks to sell off parks and green sites that are being used by the local community. Going forward, this report will help us to place a value on the health benefits that such areas bring to the community and hopefully this will help us to make a better case to the authorities.”

The report coincides with the launch of a five-year plan to protect parks. The charity wants 75 per cent of the UK population to be within a 10-minute walk of a protected park or green space by 2022. Although they are still calculating the current percentage, they claim it is significantly lower than their 75% target.

The charity has urged the Government to ban local councils from selling school playing fields and they have said that the sale of parks and green spaces are “completely short-sighted” and would likely cost the public more in the long run.

Green spaces and parks are increasingly at risk, from both a lack of investment and the ongoing trend of selling them off by cash-strapped local authorities.

Official figures suggest that the Department for Education allowed 194 playing field disposals since the Conservatives came to power almost eight years ago.

*The total health benefits worth £34 billion annually was calculated by multiplying the individual figure of £974 by the entire adult population.

ENDS