Landscape conflicts: Preferences, identities and rights

John O'Neill, Mary Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Landscapes are public environments in which different communities and individuals dwell and which matter to them in ways which are not always consistent. As such they are open to strong conflicts about what the future of landscapes ought to be and who has an entitlement to involvement in a decision about that future. How should such conflicts be resolved? One influential approach is that embodied in the practice of cost-benefit analysis: the strength of preferences for different landscapes is measured by individuals' willingness to pay and the potential Pareto improvement efficiency criterion is employed as a rule of choice. This paper contends that this approach is flawed. It examines an economic valuation study of landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales. Drawing on interviews with farmers in the Dales and on in-depth discussion groups with respondents to other economic valuation studies, it argues that landscape conflicts involve issues of identity that cannot be captured in terms of preference satisfaction and conflicts of perceived rights which could not in principle be resolved by cost-benefit analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-289
Number of pages8
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Contingent valuation
  • Identity
  • Landscape valuation
  • Property rights


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