7. Do the benefits justify the costs and resources?
Research Question: Do the benefits of the regional land use mechanism policy justify the costs and resources required?
It was noted in the evaluation plan, drawn up at the commencement of the project, that only limited benefits might be generated during the lifespan of the pilots. Consequently, it was agreed that the evaluation would focus on looking for evidence of potential benefits. Any future evaluation should be able to examine this matter more fully. Developing a formal cost-benefit analysis was beyond the scope of the evaluation brief and therefore the evaluation was reliant upon the perceived value of the pilots to stakeholders.
7.1 Findings from the pilot areas
7.1.1 Benefits Delivered During the Lifespan of the Pilots
The process of bringing stakeholders together in a forum to discuss the ecosystem approach was considered to be a benefit in its own right by a number of respondents. Stakeholders noted that this provided a valuable opportunity to learn about other points of view and to consider the complexity of land management and land use.
'Simply bringing people together and providing them with a non-confrontational environment in which to share their experiences is useful. Helps to generate better shared understanding and appreciation of others views and positions.'
The Aberdeenshire pilot team considered that their collaboration with JHI had led to a stronger relationship between the two principal partners, with one reported benefit being an improved understanding (by JHI) of practitioner needs and constraints. It was felt that this improved understanding, would be useful in helping to inform the future work of the JHI and ultimately improve the impact of such work.
The GIS tool and associated datasets and maps were seen as a useful legacy and foundation for future work. Stakeholders thought that the pilot had started to build a composite picture and to identify what is technically possible with the data. In doing so, it had helped people be more aware of, and to learn more about, the ecosystem approach. At the time of writing, the pilot team were considering taking the pilot work forward to inform a new woodland strategy for Aberdeenshire and were also considering ways in which the work could inform the core strategy process for town and country planning.
As with Aberdeenshire, the process of bringing stakeholders together was considered to be a significant benefit by those involved in the pilot. Respondents noted the value of the opportunity the pilot provided to engage in discussions about the ecosystem approach with a wider group of stakeholders than they would otherwise expect to come into contact with.
In the Scottish Borders, the pilot was founded on a long-standing partnership and there was clear evidence of a tradition of partnership working. Even so, some participants in the stage 3 evaluation workshop noted that some working relationships had been further strengthened, and that at least one new and important relationship had been established, this being with Historic Scotland.
The GIS tool and access to the associated maps and datasets were seen as potentially valuable, with some stakeholders suggesting that these assets could be useful in ways not anticipated by the pilots.
The pilot triggered a spin-off project focused on establishing a methodology for assessing Historic Land Use Value as a form of cultural ecosystem service. The project was developed to address identified gaps in the data available for mapping Cultural Heritage services, particularly archaeology, which were identified during the development of the pilot. It is being led by the Council's Archaeologist, Dr Chris Bowles, with a Steering Group that includes Historic Scotland. The pilot also reported that the GIS tool had been subject to a mini-pilot trial in the Upper Tweed, in association with Scottish Water and noted that funding had been secured for a range of additional activity (see below) which would be informed by and build upon the framework and GIS tool.
7.1.2 Potential benefits
The pilots identified several actual and potential forms of future activity which they felt would yield benefits.
- Consideration is being given to the establishment of a Land Use Forum to continue the development of outcomes and issues arising from the pilot.
- The Council intends to retain the pilot project officer and to build on the work of the pilot in the development of a new Forestry and Woodland Strategy.
- It was suggested that the Council would examine opportunities for using the work of the pilot to inform local plan development (at the options and issues stage).
- Potential development of a State of Nature Report for North East Scotland
- SBC intend to use the framework maps to inform the development of natural flood management schemes for Hawick.
- SBC have also been funded to undertake further development work to assess how the framework might be developed and used in flood protection and mitigation, biodiversity offsetting, woodland strategy and community resilience. This activity includes SBC commissioning Tweed Forum to investigate whether the tool could be used to inform approaches to the targeting of the SRDP and Woodland Grant Scheme funding.
Participants in the end of project (stage 3) evaluation workshops reported that they felt that the pilots had been useful and had provided a firm basis for future activity. Both pilots were able to identify a range of benefits associated with their activities and were able to identify several forms of expected follow-up work and future benefits.
Assigning a monetary or impact value to these benefits is beyond the scope of this evaluation, however the available evidence suggests that both pilots were successful in generating actual and potential value for their local areas. It also seems likely that external organisations, including the Scottish Government, will derive some benefit from the learning and outputs generated by the pilots.
Email: Linda Gateley
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