The benefits of Urban Greening
Almost three-quarters of Europe’s population live in urban areas, whilst in the UK that figure is expected to reach 92% as early as 2030. As the urban population grows, greater pressure is placed on green space to accommodate new housing and infrastructure that is essential to urban life.
Around 7% of land in the UK is taken up by urban landscapes. Carefully planned urban greening programmes that enhance the quality of green space across an urban landscape have many benefits which include building climate resilience to flood risk and heat stress, improving air and water quality, whilst delivering a series of health and well-being benefits for citizens.
Boosting Heath and Wellbeing
Living in a greener environment is associated with better mental health and lower all-cause mortality, from conditions such as circulatory disease and asthma, whilst cutting obesity levels through encouraging physical activity. The benefits of green space have been shown to be greatest for people from lower socio-economic groups, where health inequalities related to income deprivation are actually lower in populations that live in the greenest areas of an urban environment.
Economic growth & regeneration
Greener cities and towns create opportunities for economic growth and regeneration. New York’s hugely successful High Line project cost $153 million to turn an old elevated rail line in Manhattan into a new park. This might seem like a large investment, but it now attracts over 5 million visitors a year and kick-started $2 billion in new developments.
Small businesses have also indicated that proximity to green space is one of the most important factors in selecting a new business location, which in turn can also boost worker productivity, reducing the amount of sick leave in the process.
Improving air and water quality
Trees and other vegetation act as porous bodies that influence the distribution of pollutants. They help to absorb airborne pollutants through leaves, plant surfaces and even bark. Effectively providing a free air purification service for urban areas, what is this worth economically? In 2015, London’s trees were estimated to have removed 2,241 tonnes of pollution, a service that was valued at £126 million.
Future urban planning needs to consider how it can design more green infrastructure, such as trees, green walls and hedges into their urban landscapes.
Enhancing our biodiversity
Trees and vegetation provide shelter for wildlife and promote biodiversity that might otherwise struggle to survive in an urban environment. A mature oak tree has been shown to support up to 5,000 species of insect and invertebrates, whilst studies have shown that urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland. This is because urban areas can provide a wide variety of flowering plants and also avoid pesticides that are used in agricultural areas.