Exploring the socioeconomic and environmental value
South Hampshire has experienced considerable urban development over the last 60 years, with local planning authorities in Hampshire considering the expansion of the urban footprint into undeveloped green field land. CPRE Hampshire, the countryside charity, has set out a planning case for the designation of a new Green Belt for South Hampshire as part of a wider strategic vision for Hampshire. They commissioned NEF Consulting to undertake research exploring the types of value that a Green Belt provides.
NEF Consulting considered three different aspects of value associated with the proposed Green Belt:
- Health and wellbeing benefits.
- Economic activity associated with recreation and tourism.
- The value of a selection of ecosystem services.
For each, we sought to value what is ‘there’ and what is at risk of being lost.
- For health and wellbeing, we explored the net decrease in value of urbanising green space. We developed a simple model based on differences in physical activity and wellbeing levels in the greenest and the most built-up areas.
- For tourism and recreational activity, we used estimates on leisure activity expenditure and visitor frequency as the basis for exploring economic activity resulting from the proposed Green Belt.
- For ecosystem services, we developed a simple model to estimate the annual ecosystem service value of the proposed Green Belt. References were taken from the UK Government’s natural capital guidance combined with land use data taken from the CORINE Land Cover (CLC) 2018 database.
Key findings (see the report for detail):
- We estimate the value of wellbeing for those living in the Green Belt as between £5 million and £6.8 million greater per year than in an alternative scenario where the proposed Green Belt is replaced by urban development. This value relates to the potential wellbeing loss if the whole Green Belt is urbanised and should be proportionately adjusted to the scale of the proposed urban developments in the area.
- We estimate the value of wellbeing for those living on the periphery of the proposed Green Belt as between £8 million and £10 million per year.
- Combining the Green Belt and the periphery, we estimate the value of wellbeing as between £14 million and £17 million per year.
- The potential costs of building across the proposed South Hampshire Green Belt may cost the NHS between £431,000 and £691,000 in increased GP visits per year.
- The proposed Green Belt is estimated to generate £545,000 per year in wellbeing associated with recreation.
- We estimate the total potential economic benefit related to tourism and recreation associated with the proposed Green Belt to be as much as £1.3 million per year.
- The proposed Green Belt currently provides an ecosystem services value for food, air pollution removal, carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, and biodiversity (non-use value) estimated as £7.6 million per year. Most of this value derives from its regulating services (carbon sequestration, air pollution removal, and flood mitigation).
- We estimate the Net Present Value (NPV) over the next 60 years as ranging between £367 million and £452 million for wellbeing benefits, £35 million for economic benefits associated with tourism and recreation activity and £192 million for ecosystem services. However, when projecting future benefits, it is important to exercise a degree of caution given the assumptions.
The findings show how strong arguments can be made for the value of health and wellbeing, recreation, and tourism-related economic activity and ecosystem services associated with the proposed Green Belt. Planning authorities should consider this value when addressing challenges such as growing housing demand as, by developing on other sites, particularly previously developed land, they can potentially conserve this value.
Limitations of the study
Limitations with this study that mean the valuations should be considered as indicative and exploratory include:
- The availability of contextually specific data.
- Acknowledged challenges of valuing social outcomes such as wellbeing, and environmental impact such as ecosystem services.
- The availability of only an approximation of the proposed Green Belt area.
- A lack of alternative scenario comparisons for some estimations.
NEF Consulting recommends additional research to compare specific parts of the Green Belt with specific proposed developments. In addition, depth could be added to the valuation assessments by placing them in context of the local area and socioeconomic status of the population in South Hampshire.