Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Landscape decisions: towards a new framework for using land assets

The aim of this programme is to find ways to deliver a better, evidence-based and interdisciplinary decision-making framework to inform how land is used, through research collaboration with policy, business and land management partners.

£10.5 million
2018 to 2023
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The scope and what we're doing

The Landscape Decisions: towards a new framework for using land assets programme will address the challenge of delivering better, evidence-based decisions within UK landscapes through research collaboration with policy, business and land management partners to deliver an interdisciplinary decision-making framework to inform how land is used.

The programme is funded through the Strategic Priorities Fund, which has been set up to build upon the vision of a common research fund set out in Sir Paul Nurse’s independent review of the research councils. The fund will drive an increase in high-quality multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and innovation, ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government departments’ research priorities and opportunities, and ensure that the system is able to respond to strategic priorities and opportunities.

This programme will address the following:

  • how land can be managed to realise benefits for the benefit of society, individual wellbeing and the environment, both now and in the future
  • how research and innovation can provide solutions to support effective (real world) land-use decisions that deliver improvements to the environment, health, wellbeing and the economy.

The programme will be structured across three work packages:

  • developing new mathematics
  • building new model solutions
  • stimulating new thinking and communities.

These work packages are interrelated and unified by overarching activities that together will deliver the programme outcomes:

  • a move towards a holistic framework for land-use decision making
  • the emergence of a new community from the diverse research base, capable of articulating and underpinning a new decision framework.

To move towards a holistic decision-making framework requires activities that develop a new community from the diverse research base, and expose this to the land allocation models currently being used to capture the complexity. Through this, the programme will work to understand their opportunities and weaknesses, and seek to strengthen them through new mathematical methodology.

Current approaches to landscape decisions do not capture the complex ways we use the landscapes and value the benefits we realise from using land. Decisions made at scales from regional to local will impact on the flow and quality of ecosystem services that contribute to our environmental biodiversity, benefit our economy, our societal health and wellbeing, and our livelihoods.

Challenge lies in capturing complexity of outcomes that flow from the adapting and changing feedback loops, and ensuring these decision points draw from interventions that:

  • capture trade-offs between quality of the environment, social groups, health, wellbeing and the economy
  • pay attention to cultural, aesthetic and heritage consequences of interventions in the long term.

Why we're doing it

As individuals, communities and a country, we are required to make multiple decisions using landscapes. Making landscape-scale decisions now has a timely political imperative; about one third of the more than 800 pieces of EU environmental legislation had to be transposed into UK law after the EU exit. At the same time, the UK government is setting out ambitious, long-term aspirations for its management of the environment, for example through the 25 Year Environment Plan. Together, these requirements and political developments provide a unique opportunity for the UK to think differently about a long-standing frontier challenge about how we use land.

A landscape is the product of environmental processes, social and cultural requirements and values, and the ecosystem services associated with them. It will change continually across multiple scales (of space and time) through changes to natural systems such as water, air, climate and biodiversity, which are themselves influenced by multiple uses and users of the landscape. All have been changing over time and interact; many are now moving faster than ever before.

Who to contact

Lucy Hopewell


Programme coordination team


Governance, management and panels

Programme board

The Landscape Decisions programme will be governed by the programme board which is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the programme and delivery of the programme’s objectives. The board currently comprises appropriate representation from the funders, including NERC, EPSRC, ESRC, BBSRC, AHRC, and Defra as an observer.

Other individuals relevant to items being discussed will also attend board meetings.


The secretariat is responsible for the management of the programme on behalf of the board including financial management, procurement and grant awarding, which is carried out according to the policies and procedures of UKRI. The secretariat is provided by NERC.

Programme coordination team

The programme coordination team is based at the University of Leicester and led by Professor Heiko Balzter. The team will address the varied challenges and perspectives of the programme, and integrate its package of work with other new and ongoing activities within the programme in a cohesive way. The team will help develop the interdisciplinary capability of the programme (across the natural, social, mathematical and biological sciences, and the arts and humanities) and stakeholder engagement to address the challenges.

Members of the team are:

  • Professor Heiko Balzter
  • Rhiannon Harte-Chance (Programme Manager)
  • Professor Sergei Petrovskii
  • Professor Martin Phillips
  • Professor Sibylle Schroll
  • Professor Ivan Tyukin
  • Dr Mick Whelan
  • Dr Beth Cole.

Steering committee

A steering committee has been convened to provide strategic advice to deliver the objectives of the programme.

Last updated: 3 May 2024

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