Greenkeeper has recently been used to support the proposed development of three urban, Local Authority owned sites in the London Borough of St Albans.

Appointed by Taylor Wimpey to support their bid for the sites, the Greenkeeper team used the tool to provide insight on existing greenspace provision in the area and set out how this could influence and inform greenspace strategy proposals, to deliver strong social value for the area.

Located within close proximity to three existing urban parks, the three sites have a good degree of existing greenspace to draw upon, but how well were these spaces performing? How would they be affected by development? How might the greenspace strategy and investment respond to the increase in population and deliver better social value for the wider community?

A baseline review of the three nearby greenspaces using the Greenkeeper tool (figure 1), quickly demonstrated that one of these spaces was significantly under-performing. Greenspace 1 is a key regional park for this town, which should be attracting a strong number of visits and delivering good value for the people in the surrounding communities. In reality however, despite being of a similar scale, it is securing only 1/5 of the visits (49k visitors) of the other two and valued at only £1.2m as a result.

By far the largest proportion of this £1.2m value lies within wellbeing for visitors, but with so few accessing the space you can clearly see in figure 2 the loss this represents, alongside that of physical health, due to fewer active visitors too.

  Predicted annual visits Predicted annual visits per ha Total annual value of benefits
Greenspace 1 49,405 6,748 £1.2m
Greenspace 2 270,893 24,356 £5.8m
Greenspace 3 195,863 8,750 £5.2m
Annual value by benefit and greenspace - demonstrating remarkably low value of Greenspace 1.

With this baseline information in hand Taylor Wimpey commissioned the Greenkeeper team to undertake a deeper analysis of the results. What may the impact of their proposed population increase be? How might Greenspace 1 be enhances to deliver a more attractive and better utilised local greenspace for the new and existing residents in the area?

DRIVING AN INCREASE IN VISITS

The Greenkeeper team quickly identified some core reasons for its lower performance values. Accessibility by public transport and foot was lower in comparison to the other two nearby and similarly sized spaces. Greenspace 1 also didn’t hold Green Flag status, due to its ageing play spaces, lower maintenance levels and a lack of diversity of features.

Following a design exercise and detailed review by the Greenkeeper team, a final enhancements proposed due to the impact they could have on visitor levels and therefore value, included improvements to a skate park and playground, a new café, shop, toilets and outdoor gym, plus improved access to key major local routes and a maintenance programme to secure Green Flag status in time. By making the park more attractive to visitors, Greenkeeper demonstrated how the volume of visitors and dwell time would increase and therefore the value of benefits provided by Greenspace 1, to the new and existing population, would rise by £4.1m in annually (see figure 3).

Over a five-year investment cycle therefore, the investment in year one (estimated at £2m) to deliver the changes, plus increases in annual maintenance (£100k per annum) necessary would demonstrate a 10/1 return on investment.

As such Greenkeeper and the wider offline consultancy services provided Taylor Wimpey and their partners with a compelling business case for investment as well as a powerful view of the social value their bid could deliver.  

On completion of the submission, Tomiwa Oliade, Project Manager for Taylor Wimpey Major Developments and lead on this bid submission said, “It was great to have the greenkeeper team on board for this bid, to support our thinking. From it’s applicaiton here, I can see how Greenkeeper is a great tool to help us all better understand the social and economic value green areas possess and identify where investment will truly support the needs of the local community.”

Greenspace 1

Graph showing value of greenspace benefits delivered by new development alone, and new development plus greenspace improvements
Breakdown of the uplift in value Greenkeeper estimates would be secured simply by the new development and the additional residents which result, and the new development including the suggested investment into Greenspace 1.