CLA members contribute billions in social value

Results of a significant CLA-commissioned research project demonstrates the monetary and social value of CLA member activities in their communities
The research found that community participation as a whole had a potential value of £2.5bn per year

The multi-generational and diverse range of businesses that CLA members run means that landowners are often inextricably linked to the communities that they are part of. From providing infrastructure for broadband and renewable energy, to care farming and supporting affordable housing, CLA members are making real contributions to their communities and supporting a thriving rural economy.

While landowner contribution to the UK economy has been documented in the past, the social value they generate has not.

The CLA set out to rectify that, spending eighteen months working with the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) of the University of Gloucestershire on a project to quantify and monetise the social value generated through the activities of CLA members.

This work will be invaluable to the CLA in lobbying Government and demonstrating just how important the work of landowners is to the social sustainability of rural communities, and to wider society. It would not have been possible without the participation of over 300 CLA members, who completed a national survey and the four case studies, so we want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped.

Through a member workshop and follow up surveys, the research first identified key areas where CLA members are delivering social value. The information gathered in this first stage of work was then used by the researchers to design an online survey promoted to 18,000 landholding CLA members. The survey comprised of 13 main questions and 145 subsidiary questions to examine the detail of their social value activities, the amount being invested in them and the numbers of people routinely benefiting.


By taking such a detailed approach to the research, the results cover a whole range of activities and gives us a wealth of information and evidence to use in future. This will be really helpful after the general election - giving us specific figures to raise a new government’s awareness and support our arguments. For example, the survey showed survey respondents to be providing nearly 5,000 miles of statutory and permissive access to their land. What’s more, 61% of respondents maintain public rights of way, at an average cost of £1,000 in addition to 11 person days per CLA member.

A really interesting finding was the low level of grant funding used by members delivering beneficial activities. Grants to support renewable energy were most common, but only 15% of respondents reported that they had received any funding for renewables.

One area where we previously had little data was the contribution of CLA members’ activities to village social life. The research found that community participation as a whole had a potential value of £2.5 billion per year. CLA members’ investment in village halls, play equipment, and places for people to meet amounted to £7,300 per year on average, with 1,530 people benefitting per member. Some 57% of CLA members had hosted or supported community activities and events, benefitting 984 people per member at an annual cost per member of just under £3,000. Rural life can be isolating, so these activities are crucial to keep communities thriving.

But supporting community life is not the only contribution that landowners make; the results also show that around 20% of CLA members are supporting people to gain vocational qualifications, and 12% are facilitating opportunities for young people, including providing apprenticeships.

The survey was supported by detailed case studies of four CLA members: Pitchcott Hall Farm in Buckinghamshire, Chettle Estate in Dorset, Clinton Devon Estates in Devon, and Northumberland Estates in Northumberland.

The Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach is a social cost benefit model endorsed by the UK government and was used by the CCRI to measure and monetise the social value generated for society through the activities of these four CLA members.

The results indicated that for every £1 invested by members, between £2.54 and £2.78 was being returned to society

This return comes in the form of social benefits for individuals, families, and communities such as improved health and wellbeing, knowledge and skills, green behaviours, reduced isolation and community cohesion.

Professor Paul Courtney, who led the research said “I’m extremely grateful to everyone who took part in the study for their time and energy, as without it a meaningful assessment of the social value being generated by CLA members would not have been possible. This kind of data is not easy to gather up and collect, and overcoming the barriers to undertaking this research has helped to shine a light on the substantial contribution that landowners make to the health and sustainability of rural communities, and indeed to wider society.”

The data from the online survey and the case study analysis formed the basis of a national level economic analysis which sought to estimate the value of this contribution across the CLA membership.

This indicative analysis showed the estimated social value being generated nationally by CLA landowning members to be in order of £8 billion per year. Of this, £3 billion comes through supporting housing and development, which benefits around 360,000 people each year. Other areas where CLA members are making an important difference is community participation, environmental management, and access to green space. The mean private investment per CLA member is also significant, ranging from an estimated £1,979 per annum for renewable energy to an estimated £138,642 for environmental management.

What does it all mean?

The biggest take away from the study is that these social activities are not happening by chance. The amount of time and money CLA members are routinely investing demonstrates that most social value generation is happening deliberately, rather than as a byproduct of other activities.

As part of their analysis the researchers found that the businesses with larger landholdings engaged in more capital-intensive activities, like infrastructure and provision of broadband. This suggests that access to capital is an enabling factor for larger businesses, and a limiting factor for smaller ones. In turn this implies that for landowners to keep delivering social benefits, their businesses must remain profitable, and this is something the CLA will make clear to Ministers in future.

Another key message is that, while CLA members are investing their own time and money, this cannot replace public investment, which can enable the delivery of more activities (or perhaps more costly ones) alongside what members are doing to deliver better social outcomes.

The research covers many different aspects of social value, which will help us give a fuller picture of what landowners contribute to their communities and to society as a whole. This will be particularly important in the context of a general election where many candidates across all parties have little experience of the rural landscape.