Plants in Wakefield are saving taxpayers from paying millions of pounds, a new study has revealed.
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Environmental experts have studied the impact of pollution on every area in the UK, and how trees and vegetation have helped absorb toxic gases from the air.
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They found that Wakefield has one of the healthiest atmospheres in the country, because the large number of plants in the area are soaking up so much ammonia and sulphur dioxide, which are produced through human activity.
As a result, lives are saved through the prevention of lung diseases and people in the city have to pay less for the authorities to clean up the air.
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Government data said that the nature in Wakefield saved £19.27 per person in 2015, the last year for which data is available.
To put that in context, the biggest saving was made in Berkshire, where the saving was £20.44 per head. The average across the UK was £15.53.
It’s been suggested that the district’s geography, complete with well-kept nature reserves and lots of vegetation, has contributed to the fresh air.
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Tim Melling, a local conservationist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said: “When I first moved here I was really surprised. You look at a map and think of Wakefield as this big urban sprawl, but it’s not like that at all.
“The district’s got so many nice rural areas and plants that make it a really pleasant place to live.
“One thing Wakefield has done really well is preserving it’s roadside grass verges. They haven’t been particularly well supported in other places, but if you have a grass verge with flowers on that takes a lot of pollution out of the atmosphere. Wakefield recognised this a long time ago.
“A lot of the trees in this part of the world are around 500 years old and so they will have consumed so much carbon in that time. ”
The number of deaths from breathing problems that have been prevented in Wakefield alone can’t be quantified. But a government report estimates that nature saved 27,000 lives across the UK in 2015 as a result of plants detoxifying the atmosphere.
As might be expected, pollution is more rife in city centres than in suburbs and outskirts because they are more built up.
For example, the area around Stanley Marsh Nature Reserve absorbed 88 times as much gas as the square kilometre around the Royal Mail parcel depot on Denby Dale Road, in one year.
Amount nature saved per person in Wakefield as a result of soaking up pollutants (2015) – £19.27
Estimated number of lives saved in the UK in 2015 because of nature – 27,000
Estimated number of hospital admissions from lung and heart-related conditions saved – 7,100
Amount of pollutant gases absorbed from UK atmosphere in 2015 by nature – 1.4bn kg