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Assessment of the Socio-Economic Benefits of the Paths for Communities Scheme - LM0307

Access is important economically, and particularly to rural economies — as was revealed so starkly when the countryside was closed during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The results from the 2010/11 national Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey show that the English adult population participated in an estimated 2.73 billion visits to the natural environment during 2011/12 . Such visits can have a strong role to play in growing the rural economy. For example, evidence shows that the South West Coast Path generates around £300 million a year for the economy of the region, supporting over 7,500 jobs .

Following the 2011 Rural Economy Growth Review, Defra announced a new £2m fund for the creation of new permanent access rights. The Paths for Communities scheme, funded by the Rural Development Programme for England, aims to develop and enhance the rights of way network to the benefit of the local economy by funding projects developed by the local community in question. Further information about the scheme can be found at:

The links between the provision and use of access infrastructure and health are well-documented. What is less easy to establish is a direct link with economic outcomes. In 2006 Defra funded Cranfield University working with Bedfordshire County Council to undertake research to develop a decision support tool (PROWTool) to help local authorities to justify and prioritise rights of way expenditure in line with the achievement of desired social and economic outcomes:
The aim of this project is to assess the socio-economic outcomes for local communities gained through improvements to the access network through the Paths for Communities Scheme. This should provide evidence, if possible, of a direct link between the development of new public rights of way and their contribution to local socio-economic outcomes.

The project will enable an evaluation of the costs and benefits of the shceme and an assessment of whether the scheme represents value for money. This will allow us to test thepolicy of using a community-led approach to improving the network and will form the evidence base for consideration of other future programmes or for other policy interventions.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : Phase 1 Evaluation Report   (6640k)
• FRP - Final Report : Full Study Evaluation Report   (7752k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendices   (2914k)
• OTH - Other : Delivery Mechanism Assessment   (6517k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2015

Cost: £42,630
Contractor / Funded Organisations
URS Infrastructure and Environment UK, Ltd