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article imageOp-Ed: Report - Nature in UK 'worth billions of pounds to the economy'

By Kev Hedges     Jun 2, 2011 in Environment
Its wildlife conservation areas, lakes, forests, parks and green spaces are said to worth billions of pounds to the United Kingdom. The study could shape where we build future developments and whether it is economically damaging or not.
Now the results of a study hope to guide those many government, academic, NGO and private sector institutions into planning better for the future of society within the UK. The study conducted by the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) says that for several years just living close to a green space is worth up to £300 ($490) a year. The study was commissioned by government ministers and they will use it to re-shape just where we develop on green-belt land.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said, "The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air - but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free."
A quick look at food production and the economic benefits that the natural world gives us are evident. Rich fertile soils caused by microbes and earthworms. Pollinating insects, such as bees also provide a rich and enhanced quality in food production. However if the current decline in numbers and health of bees continues then it could spell economic disaster for all. Farmers will not be able to produce as much or they will be forced to spend out more to to keep the same levels of production. This will all impact on rising food prices in the supermarket, reports the BBC.
What is the UK National Ecosystem Assessment?
Beginning in the summer of 2009 it is the first ever analysis of the natural environment in the UK in relation to the benefits it provides to our society and economic well-being and forms part of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) initiative.
Ian Bateman is an economist from the University of East Anglia describes the report as having incredible value, "Without the environment, we're all dead - so the total value is infinite," he said. "What is important is the value of changes - of feasible, policy-relevant changes - and those you can put numbers on."
Professor Bob Watson is chief scientific advisor to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), he implies that this is not necessarily and end to development of green-belt land but the benefits of each and every development being proposed will now be assessed with more diligence and accuracy. As he points out:
Urban green space, for example, is unbelievably important - if affects the value of houses, it affects our mental well-being. This report is saying 'this has got incredible value, so before you start converting green space into building, think through what the economic value is of maintaining that green space' - or the blue space, the ponds and the rivers.
Last week plans to build 20,000 new homes in Stevenage in north Hertfordshire were thrown out after the planning inspectorate determined the Stevenage Borough Council's core strategy unsound. The Council argue that they would like to relieve the housing shortage in the town. However there is very little homelessness in the town and creating economic growth is more likely the reason behind mass development plans to build the homes on what is Forster country. Stevenage already has high levels of unemployment because much of the town's industry has gone north to cheaper lands or even abroad. Adding another 20,000 homes to the infrastructure would simply create a conurbation that could may well implode into a Detroit-style ghetto forty years from now. Not to mention destruction of green belt countryside.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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