Ordnance Survey have undertaken some fascinating analysis of data recorded on their online mapping and App system, OS Maps, and featured alongside Brexit on the front of today’s Times.
The most popular place for App walkers to start a walk is Edale in the Peak District, but the busiest thoroughfare is the top of Snowdon in North Wales. The Ordnance Survey press release gives further information (click here for the link). There are also further links to a blog and flickr presentation. The Times report adds some additional information: at the other extreme the Isle of Lewis is where fewest expeditions were logged.
What else do we know? Over 300,000 walks were logged last year, the most popular month was May and the most popular length of walk was 10 miles.
Fascinating in itself data like this could also point the way for new developments in rural support. For example clause one of the Agriculture Bill sets out a clear list of items which can be funded by Defra in future using NELMS (New Environmental Land Management Schemes) and other initiatives. Public access features prominently, because of its recreational, social and health benefits. Meanwhile the Natural Capital Committee continues to labour on the value of the environment to society at large. The most recent of the RICS Land Journal covers a number of these issues in some detail and it is publicly available at this link.
Questions will therefore inevitably rise as to how to prioritise spending, and indeed about the value to society of such expenditure. Taking an overly simplistic approach to the OS data for example, we might say that the value to the users of the OS App of their visits to Snowdonia could be ascertained by how much they have all paid to get there. Let’s say that the journey from Manchester Piccadilly station to North Wales is about £50 return for two travelling together. Using a ‘travel cost’ method of valuation that means the value of this experience for the 2,370 App users who trundled over the top of Snowdon is £118,500 pa; capitalising this at the Treasury rate of 3.5% gives a capital value of about £3.4 million. Taking a similar approach to Edale: the train fare from Manchester Piccadilly would be about £30 x 2,300 App users = £69,000 pa, capitalised to about £2 million. Of course not everybody travelled by train from Manchester Piccadilly, and not every visitor used the App but I think you get the point. Whether you turn the visit numbers into monetary values or not you have an indication of where the public might like their money to be spent on visitor facilities. Of course you might think that the solitude of the Isle of Lewis, and its relative freedom from Map App users, gives it a premium value in its own right.
And that in turn has important messages for those would like to bid successfully for funding like this in future. What benefits will we have to sell to funders and how will we market them to best effect?