The social return on investment of an urban regeneration project using real-world data: the Connswater Community Greenway, Belfast, UK

Christopher Tate, Ciaran O’Neill, Ngan Tran, Leonie Heron, Frank Kee, Mark A. Tully, Mary Dallat, Ruth F. Hunter

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Previous research has illustrated the role of urban green and blue spaces in improving the economic, social, environmental, and health-related outcomes of urban populations. The Connswater Community Greenway is presented as a case study to assess the social value of an urban regeneration project. Using real-world data from two time points (2012 and 2017), our analysis focussed on eight key elements: property values; flood alleviation; tourism; biodiversity; climate change; health and wellbeing; crime; and employment and productivity. Using social return on investment analysis, we estimated the value of the Connswater Community Greenway over a 40-year horizon. The total value was estimated to be between £56.8m and £67m. After subtracting the costs (£42.2m), the net present value of the Connswater Community Greenway was £14.6m - £24.8m. The benefit-cost ratio was 1.34–1.59, meaning that for every £1 invested in the Connswater Community Greenway, the local economy gains between £1.34 and £1.59. Overall, the Connswater Community Greenway will provide a positive return on investment which will be realised after 30 years. Social return on investment analysis provides a framework for the incorporation of many multifunctional benefits of urban green and blue spaces into economic evaluation, providing a more complete analysis of value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-718
Number of pages20
JournalCities & Health
Issue number5
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 23 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
GroundsWell ( ) is an interdisciplinary consortium involving researchers, policymakers, implementers and communities. It is led by Queen’s University Belfast, University of Edinburgh and University of Liverpool in partnership with Cranfield University, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, University of Lancaster and Liverpool John Moores University. We would like to acknowledge our partners including: Belfast, Edinburgh and Liverpool City Councils, Public Health Agencies of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Greenspace Scotland, Scottish Forestry, Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, Department for Infrastructure Northern Ireland, Belfast Healthy Cities, Climate Northern Ireland, Health Data Research UK, Administrative Data Research Centre, NatureScot, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool Health Partners, NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the Scottish Government, Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, HSC Research and Development Office Northern Ireland, EastSide Partnership, Ashton Centre, Regenerus, Sustrans, Cycling UK, CHANGES, The Mersey Forest, Translink, Anaeko, AECOM Ltd, The Paul Hogarth Company and Moai Digital Ltd. The PARC study was supported by a grant from the National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) (grant number: G0802045/1). The funding partners are (in alphabetical order): Alzheimer’s Research Trust; Alzheimer’s Society; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Chief Scientist Office; Scottish Government Health Directorate; Department of Health; Diabetes UK; Economic and Social Research Council; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC R&D Division); Medical Research Council; The Stroke Association; Welsh Assembly Government and World Cancer Research Fund. The authors declare that the funders had no role in any aspect of the study, including the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Urban Studies
  • natural experiment
  • urban green space
  • economic evaluation
  • Social return on investment


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