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Public Value Research and the Socio-Economic Impact of The National Forest

Monday, 13th September 2010

The National Forest Company has recently published new findings on the social and economic impact of the Forest’s creation. 

Research commissioned by Defra and the National Forest Company (NFC) shows that the current net financial benefit of the Forest as a project is estimated at £140m. The study, by specialist economic consultants Eftec, examined the public cost of creating the Forest so far (around £89m) against the public benefits it is creating. 

These benefits include growing timber, recreation opportunities, carbon sequestration, landscape enhancement, wildlife habitats and the regeneration of despoiled land.  When the Forest is complete and fully mature the total overall benefits are estimated at £721m (a benefit to cost ratio of 4.7 to 1). The researchers say this is a conservative estimate, as it is difficult to put a value against the greening of the environment which has led to more investment, above and beyond the direct regeneration of sites.

A second study, Much More Than Trees 3, by D C Research of Leicester undertook a detailed local assessment of the social and economic impact of the Forest. This finds that there is strong evidence that The National Forest continues to play an important role in the social and economic development of the area.

  • Economic activity rates outperform regional and national averages.
  • Business growth is strong, as evidenced by VAT registrations, a strong growth in the tourism economy and steady growth in the woodland economy. 
  • The area has enjoyed above average population growth (particularly in the 16 to 29 and the 45+ categories) and has a relatively healthy property market, which has improved markedly over the lifetime of the Forest.
  • Community and visitor support for the Forest is strong.
  • Over £40m was invested in Forest related and regeneration projects and programmes in the area from 2006/7 to date, making a total of £155m since 1995.
  • Visitor spending has grown from £252m in 2003 to £287m in 2008 (a 14% increase).  Over the same time period jobs in tourism have grown by 12% to 4,422.
  • 333.5 Forest-related jobs have been created / safeguarded since 1990/1.

Discussion with local residents through citizens’ panels and other research mechanisms shows a greater awareness of the Forest in the landscape and that people are making the connection between the Forest and the new places they can walk and explore, and with new recreation and tourism facilities.

Simon Evans, Chief Officer NFC, Land Use:  ‘It is very gratifying that independent research verifies the positive impact we see everyday as we work to create and develop the Forest.  Our many partners are very positive about the Forest’s growing economic and social potential.  There is a clear expectation that the best is yet to come in terms of socio-economic benefits.’

Much More Than Trees 3 is available to download at: http://www.nationalforest.org/document/research/much_more_than_trees_3.pdf

The Eftec study is available to download at: http://www.nationalforest.org/document/research/eftec_analysis.pdf

Contact the National Forest Company on 01283 551211 or email enquiries@nationalforest.org for more information.