The Valleys Regional Park

Parc Rhanbarthol y Cymoedd

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WECAN - work package 1

Assessing the economic value of natural environment

The economic value of natural heritage in the partner areas is unknown and therefore, in making policy choices, it is insufficiently taken into account

The aim of the WECAN in this work package was to develop, and enhance where appropriate, instruments to evaluate and highlight the economic value of the natural environment. The economic value was calculated based on existing knowledge and experiences in the different European countries and regions, but also on the basis of a newly developed instruments.

VRP initiatives

The value of the natural environment to the economy is increasingly an area for research and practical actions and is a major underlying principle of the WECAN project. Recently, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, a major international initiative, has highlighted the global economic benefits of biodiversity, the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, drawing together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

The Valleys Regional Park and the other partners in the WECAN project sought to develop a much greater theoretical and practical understanding of how the natural environment can contribute to sustainable economic growth and social justice in our regions where the environment has been exploited by now largely-gone heavy industries such as coal mining, which have left a legacy of often degraded landscapes and socio-economic deprivation.

Commissioned though lead partner RLKM, and working in conjunction with information provided by all the WECAN partners, Alterra carried out a preliminary study review on the valuation of Ecosystems Goods and Services and conducted a series of workshops in early 2011 with WECAN partners involving strategic partners in the different regions.

A common action for partners as a result of the study and the workshops was to establish a number of practical ‘pilot’ schemes, which could be used to evaluate different aspects of the contribution and value of Ecosystems Goods and Services/Green Infrastructure to their economies as well as social and environmental regeneration.

The major practical pilot selected by VRP was to demonstrate and evaluate how a Sustainable Drainage Scheme (SUDS) could be used in the valleys to help regenerate a disused brownfield site at Caerau to create an area for environmental activities including the development of a community market garden to help generate revenue for sustainability, and the creation of a woodland area to promote biodiversity and engage and connect the local community back to its wider green spaces and natural environment. A second pilot aimed at youngsters involving a similar approach has also provided connectivity between the two projects with wider links across the valleys.

The Caerau and Brynglas Market Garden created on a brownfield site developed through a WECAN-funded SUDS has been officially opened in the presence of local Ogmore MP, Huw Irranca Davies, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To help us evaluate the economic and social contribution of these projects as well as a number of other selected initiatives being carried out by VRP through the WECAN project, the VRP undertook two actions.

First we commissioned Anne Jaluzot, a freelance strategic urban greening consultant, to train VRP staff and partners in using the Green Infrastructure Evaluation toolkit which she was involved in developing and also using in the Green Infrastructure North West project. Anne is involved with us in enhancing and adapting the GI toolkit with respect to more-specific Welsh and valleys environmental and economic values working with us and colleagues at Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and Forestry Commission Wales (FCW).

Second, also in conjunction with the then Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and Forestry Commission Wales (FCW), we commissioned CAG consultants to work with us. They carried out an evaluation of good practice in community engagement and community involvement in natural resource management as well as trying to inform further the social aspects of the GI toolkit, which went towards developing the WECAN evaluation hub.

CAG and Anne Jaluzot were also involved with our French WECAN partners which provided a transnational link for the work and learning from the other WECAN regions.