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New report explores how to value the countryside

New research from NEF Consulting, commissioned by CPRE Hampshire, the countryside charity, explores the value of the countryside in South Hampshire. CPRE Hampshire is campaigning for a new Green Belt in South Hampshire.

The report, Introducing a South Hampshire Green Belt: exploring the socioeconomic and environmental value, focuses on the potential benefits to health and wellbeing, the economy, and the value of nature and ecosystems.

With a surge in appreciation for the countryside during the coronavirus lockdown, there has been a growing awareness of the role that green spaces and nature play in our wellbeing. The challenge, addressed by this report, is how do we express the value of the countryside, or any green space, to our wellbeing?

NEF Consulting’s research finds that if the countryside north of the urban centres of South Hampshire were protected by a Green Belt, this could generate almost £26 million a year in health, wellbeing, economic and ecosystem benefits:

  • The health and wellbeing benefit for people living in and around this area of countryside could amount to up to £17 million a year. This value relates to the potential loss of wellbeing if the proposed Green Belt area was built on.
  • The potential impact of building across the proposed Green Belt area may cost the NHS up to £690,000 in increased GP visits a year.
  • The research estimates that the value of ecosystem services provided by the proposed Green Belt area for food, removal of air and carbon pollution, flood protection and biodiversity is £7.6 million a year. These are important aspects in tackling the climate emergency.
  • The potential economic benefit from tourism and recreation in the proposed Green Belt area is estimated as much as £1.3 million a year.

NEF Consulting’s exploratory analysis is based on the large body of evidence from UK research studies and mental health benefits of green spaces. These benefits are being highlighted even more during the coronavirus pandemic, whether from countryside or urban parks.

Dee Haas, Chair of CPRE Hampshire, comments:

“We want our decision-makers to make sure that the value of our countryside, as set out in this report, is retained by the protection of a Green Belt – the only effective legislation currently available to prevent urban sprawl.

It’s important that these values are considered by our planning authorities when deciding on the location of development – we want to see a genuine ‘brownfield first’ approach.”

The report findings estimate the value of the South Hampshire countryside and could be developed further through consultation and research with stakeholders. 

Jasmeet Phagoora , co-author of the report comments:

“Accessing green spaces is more important than ever given the current crisis – we are pleased that the research helps to demonstrate the impact of the countryside on our wellbeing.”

NEF Consulting are working with other organisations to highlight the great value of our green spaces.

For more details, download the full report here.

Or for a short summary of the report, see our case study.

Further reading:

Parks are for everyone

Photo credit: Adam Swaine