Every £1.00 invested in an urban greenway can expect to return an investment of £2.00-£6.00 presenting a strong business case for investment in urban green infrastructure.

For the attention of: Local government (those responsible for infrastructure and public health); transport planners; city planners; public health advocates

The problem: Urban greenways are open spaces in cities used for recreation or to protect the environment.

Previously published research points to the health benefits of urban greenways. They also have social, environmental and economic benefits. However, to date, a full economic business case for new urban greenways has not been developed.

To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to conduct a social return on investment analysis of a new urban greenway estimating the potential benefits.

What we did and why: We assessed the economic business case for urban greenways, and demonstrated their value. Our approach was to undertake a ‘Return on Investment’ study of the Connswater Community Greenway in Belfast. We identified seven key areas to look at: property values; flood alleviation; climate change; health; labour employment and productivity; tourism; and quality of place.

For each area, we the summarised the evidence base to predict an ‘effect estimate’ (how large the impact was likely to be). We added together all the monetary values of the impacts to obtain the total monetary benefit, and then divided that by the total cost of the intervention works. This provided us with a ratio describing the amount in pounds sterling (£) generated in benefits for every £1 invested.

What our study adds: Assuming the greenway will be managed and maintained for at least 40 years, we found that the economic case to be that for every £1.00 invested in the greenway, there would be a  £2 – £6 economic return (this is between 2.88 and 5.81 as a Benefit Cost Ratio).

Implications for city policy and practice: Our work highlights, and quantifies, many of the positive benefits – including environmental, health and economic – which urban greenways can bring to an area.

Other monetised and non-monetised benefits, such as the attraction of economic investment and social value through planned concurrent community engagement activities (such as walking programmes, litter pick-ups, arts and crafts, local markets), are also likely. However, they can be difficult to measure and value. To date, few studies have attempted to aggregate and value the total economic business case for urban greenways.

Further information:

Website for  Connswater Community Greenway, and Twitter @ConnsGreenway

Website for QUB Centre for Public Health, and Twitter @CPH_QUB

Read the full paper: Social return on investment analysis of an urban greenway

Authors: Ruth F. Hunter (@Ruth_HunterQUB), Mary A.T. Dallat, Mark A. Tully (@MarkATully), Leonie Heron (@leonieheron92), Ciaran O’Neill & Frank Kee

Editor: Marcus Grant (@MarcusxGrant)