The Development of a Tool for Assessing the Environmental Qualities of Urban Blue Spaces

Mishra, H S, S Bell, P Vassiljev, F Kuhlmann, G Niin, and J Grellier. 2020. “The Development of a Tool for Assessing the Environmental Qualities of Urban Blue Spaces.” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 49 (January): 126575.


It is well established that outdoor natural environments - or green spaces - have the potential to serve as therapeutic landscapes and are a public health resource. Less is known about the extent to which “water-related environments (blue spaces) - may benefit health. As with green space, health benefits resulting from blue space use probably depend on place quality. However, the lack of comparable environmental quality data hampers planning and design of blue spaces and their inclusion in public health-related policies.

This paper presents a novel tool - the BlueHealth Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT) - which enables comparable assessment of environmental aspects and attributes that influence access to, use of and health-promoting activities in blue spaces. The tool is based on a review of published evidence and rigorous evaluation of 28 existing place assessment tools developed by and used in different disciplines including urban and transport planning, landscape architecture and management, urban design and public health.

The environmental attributes identified were assessed using a place affordance-affect scale based on their relevance to the interaction between the environment and human behaviour. This provided a framework for extracting those environmental variables especially relevant to blue spaces and for health determinants. These were incorporated into the BEAT as a set of domains each comprising several physical, social, aesthetic and environmental aspects.

The BEAT uses a questionnaire-based approach to examine each domain and aspect and to obtain both qualitative and quantitative measures using experience and judgment by either experts or stakeholders. The tool is freely available via an online interface featuring comprehensive guidance for assessors and a means of presenting results graphically. The tool can be used to compare sites before and after design interventions at a site. The BEAT enables rigorous and comparable assessment of the environment and strengthens the role of evidence-based planning in the development of urban blue spaces as a public health resource.

Testing the reliability and effectiveness of a new tool for assessing urban blue spaces: The BlueHealth environmental assessment tool (BEAT)

Mishra, H.S., Bell, S., Grellier, J., White, M.P., (2021), Testing the reliability and effectiveness of a new tool for assessing urban blue spaces: The BlueHealth environmental assessment tool (BEAT), Health and Place, 68, 102526.


In order to understand how blue spaces may influence health-promoting behaviours, a reliable and effective assessment tool is needed. The Blue Health Environment Assessment Tool (BEAT) was developed to meet this need. A two-stage approach to testing the reliability of the tool is presented here. At Stage-1, one common and several different expert assessors rated 16 sites independently and their results compared. In Stage-2, two assessors rated 21 sites independently and their results were compared. The Inter-class correlation coefficient (ICC) was calculated to assess inter-rater reliability to both stages. Stage-2 results showed greater reliability after enhanced training of the assessors. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the tool at revealing differences between sites and for identifying health promoting affordances we carried out intra and inter-site comparisons of a subset of six sites for the Stage-1 and 18 sites for Stage-2. The results showed that overall the tool performs consistently and compares well to the reliability shown by other similar tools. The tool is also highly effective in identifying site-specific differences across the test sample of blue spaces. The results demonstrate that the tool can be used reliably (with training and guidance) and that it provides meaningful data to help planners and designers assess different sites.

© BEAT-Project BlueHealth. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 666773.

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