Portobello and the Water of Leith blue space survey

Briefing note: BlueHealth Environmental Assessment Tool for collecting data on blue and green spaces for planning

The BlueHealth Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT) is of great value for obtaining information for the baseline surveys within Edinburgh’s Thriving Green Spaces Project as well as for other purposes in urban planning and use by citizen science. The tool has been developed as part of an EU-funded research project BlueHealth.

The Thriving Green Spaces (TGS) team have been working with Dr. Simon Bell at the University of Edinburgh’s OPENspace Research Centre who is one of the BlueHealth researchers that developed the BEAT, and several masters students doing dissertations in relation to blue spaces and health. These blue spaces are our outdoor water environments such as the seaside, lochs, burns, and canals.

Extensive research and analysis of existing environmental assessment tools (including the Place Standard and the Green Flag Awards scheme) was done by BlueHealth researchers to develop this tool which evaluates the social, physical and ecological characteristics of urban blue spaces. The BlueHealth Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT), improves understanding of the factors that can maximise the health and wellbeing benefits of blue spaces. Including where people interact with the water directly (in, on or around) or indirectly (by viewing or sensing it).

To improve usability, two versions of the tool have been created, one for landscape, planning and environmental management professionals, and one for citizens and community groups. Both versions are free to access online, enabling users to make simple, practical and comprehensive assessments of blue spaces both before and after design changes are made.

Making assessments using the BEAT

The tool’s questionnaire allows stakeholders to assess qualitative and quantitative measures using their experience and judgment. Following an assessment, the user can present the results graphically and in text to:

  • Support planning and design projects
  • Inform projects to improve access and restore waterfront landscapes
  • Evaluate opinions from the people who use a blue space

This information helps practitioners to build a supporting evidence-base for planning urban blue spaces across as a public health resource.

The Professional Tool has been created for stakeholders including landscape architects, ecologists, recreation planners, urban planners or hydrologists who know the relevant domains, methods and instruments for environmental assessments. A team of experts might be used to collect and interpret the data. This includes analysing variables such as air or water pollution, or reviewing statistical sources such as socio-economic data about local residents, and then relating these factors to one another.

Access the Professional Tool.

The Community Tool has been designed for citizens and community groups interested in assessing their local environment. For example, this could be to assess how safe a swimming spot is for the family or to obtain quality data that can support a community project. The tool also makes a great educational resource for students looking to collect evidence for school or research projects.

Access the Community Tool.

Read BEAT survey guidance notes

Currently, we are looking for local volunteers to conduct these assessments at various segments along the Water of Leith and Portobello Beach.  If you are interested in contributing to this citizen science opportunity, please get in touch at