Enhancing access to NEVO – the Natural Environment Valuation Online Tool

Project Code: 017
Environment Valuation Online (NEVO) Tool is a powerful, open-access, web application designed for regional spatial planning. Championed by SWEEP throughout its early development, NEVO’s function and accessibility were enhanced under this SWEEP project. This extended the benefit delivered to its diverse range of users (business, policy-makers, third sector organisations). NEVO’s close alignment with the NetZeroPLUS project has leveraged new funding. Ultimately, NEVO continues to accelerate the mainstream adoption and application of the Natural Capital Approach.

Project team

Project Lead
Brett Day
Academic Lead
Project Lead
Amy Binner
Academic Collaborator
Nathan Owen
Academic Collaborator
Patrick Collings
Impact Fellow
James Webber
Impact Fellow
Sara Zonneveld
Impact Fellow
William Booth-Clibborn
Impact Fellow
Diana Tingley
Impact Facilitation

Why it matters

NEVO is a simplified (yet still highly sophisticated) online version of the Natural Environment Valuation (NEV) suite of models – a ground-breaking, spatially-explicit, integrated modelling platform which quantify and value the cascading effects of land use change through ecological and economic systems. The NEV models were originally developed to support land-use change analysis relating to the new post-Brexit Environmental Land Use Management Scheme (ELMS).  

Defra funded NEVO’s initial development NEVO Tool (2016-2019), to bring the sophistication of the NEV models to a wider range of users, including business, policy-makers and the public. NEVO was soft-launched in Nov 2018 with over 20 organisations including the Environment Agency, Defra, Department for Transport, Balfour Beatty, eftec consultancy, Forestry Commission and the Rivers Trusts, and generally released in Jan 2019.  

Under SWEEP, it was planned to continue to evolve and improve NEVO to ensure it was accessible and delivered needed-functionality to all those interested in exploring regional spatial planning, and the integrated relationships between climate change, land-use change, ecosystem service flows and economic values, at a time of flux in land-use management post Brexit. 

Image credit: Lawrence Hookham – Unsplash


The NEVO tool was instrumental in helping our consultants (Wood Group UK Ltd) demonstrate the costs and values of the broader benefits associated with land use change, aimed at reducing excessive nutrient inputs into the water environment.

Jonathan Garland, Environment Agency

What we did

  1. Function
    • the team Streamlined NEVO’s ‘back-end’ to strengthen its function and longevity.  
    • £25K new funding secured from UoE Business School to transfer NEVO (and the aligned Outdoor Recreation Valuation Tool – ORVal) to a more stable platform, and provide ongoing UoE technical/IT maintenance support for 5 years (2021-2026).  
    • Reviewed Intellectual Property rights and licensing options.  
    • Google analytics and user-password system set up to monitor and support the user experience.   
  2. Accessibility  
    • Developed NEVO’s ‘front-end’, following a ‘cold-review’ of the user experience, to include a Demo video (shown at COP26) and series of User Guide videos (hosted on NEVO’s YouTube Channel) and as series of in-Tool resources, including an interactive ‘Welcome Tour’, explanations, Help functions and CSV Variable Name download. 
    • NEVO Tool Information Sheet produced providing an accessible review of NEVO’s capabilities and to establish a single entry-point to NEVO’s resources –  
    • Report produced – Day D, Owen N, Binner A, et al (2020). The Natural Environmental Valuation (NEV) Modelling Suite: A Summary Technical Report. LEEP Working Paper.  
    • In-model NEVO documentation, including Case Study ‘Reconnecting and improving the River Wey’.  
    • Held series of SWEEP-linked Ecosystem Knowledge Network webinars (138 participants in 2018; 104 in 2019) and presented NEVO at variety of SWEEP-linked events, including during COP26, HMT Green Book workshop, and Civil Service Live conference.  
  3. Development  
    • Included new coverage of beaches and coastal areas. Reviewed capacity to water and pollinator ecosystem services.  
    • Series of meetings with current and potential new ‘organisation-level’ users, including the Environment Agency, NatWest Bank, Church Commissioners, Savills and other consultants and Ministry of Defence (MoD).  
    • Developed new ‘custom area’ functionality allowing users to upload their own area shapefiles and create bespoke ‘My Region’ analyses within NEVO. This was beta-tested in Nov 2022 with selected users, and supported by a ‘Custom Area – Shapefile Upload Function’ training video.  
    • Boosted delivery of underpinning NEV models in NetZeroPLUS project (£5M), a UKRI-funded Greenhouse Gas removal Demonstrator Project, which is combining natural and social science to guide a massive expansion of woodland in the UK, including development of MoD modelling.  

Impacts & benefits

  1. High-level endorsements, NEVO was powerfully endorsed by:  
    • UK government’s Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), in its highly influential 2020 guidance ‘Enabling a Natural Capital Approach’.  
    • Committee on Climate Change, an independent, statutory body advising government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change. 
  2. Boosting development and intellectual input  
    • NEVO’s development under SWEEP has strengthened the intellectual and technical development of the NetZeroPLUS modelling work, also based on the underpinning NEV models. This has led to £200K leveraged funding to  
  3. Informed reviews, strategy and planning – including: 
    • National Infrastructure Commission’s natural capital analysis of ‘Rail Needs Assessment’ [5.3]. 
    • EA’s review of tools linked to a judicial review of Diffuse Water Pollution Plans and the ‘nutrient neutrality’ requirement.  
    • EA’s Natural Capital Evidence programme of work  
  4. Delivered commercial advantage  – Environmental consultancies use NEVO in their commercial practices as a knowledge-gathering and high-level screening and analysis tool. For example, Mott MacDonald routinely use NEVO’s accessible interface to upskill staff, introduce welfare values into environmental assessments (which would previously have been impossible), and boost their commercial capability through early-adopter advantage.