ATLAS Guide
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T8.2: Social Infrastructure: Key Issues & Guiding Principles

Social infrastructure is a vital part of the creation of sustainable communities and needs to be given high priority in the design of new residential communities from the very early stages. When planning for social and community infrastructure as part of large scale growth it is important to consider the following overarching principles regarding design and functionality and service planning and delivery.

Design & Functional Principles 

Consideration should be given as early as possible in the development process to the design and location of new facilities to maximise their accessibility, attractiveness and potential usage and to ensure that the appropriate evidence base is provided:

  • community and social facilities may have specific design and access criteria that will need to be understood and addressed;
  • the assumptions in spatial Masterplans should be informed by the latest thinking in social infrastructure, for example: extended schools; co-located health facilities; all-through-schools; co-located and managed sports facilities and play strategies for teenagers;
  • understanding the inter-relationships between and the potential advantages and disadvantages of co-locating certain types of facilities can usefully inform the master planning process, for example: health facilities and elderly housing schemes;
  • the availability of quality local services will have a positive impact on the overall quality and sustainability of a new place, its image and desirability, and commercial value;
  • social infrastructure can also play a significant role in achieving broader objectives, such as removing the barriers to work though the provision of childcare and access to training and education for parents; 
  • often a critical mass of population is needed to make new services feasible, for example a new secondary school is likely to require a certain catchment population, I it may not be feasible to provide some services where there is insufficient demand in terms of numbers of residents as they cannot be delivered at part scale; and
  • when thinking about how to integrate social infrastructure into proposals effectively, it is important to appreciate that some services will cater for different population catchments and that some services work better when co-located than others, and these factors will influence the location and design of facilities within a new development.

Service Planning & Delivery Principles

  • it is critical that social infrastructure stakeholders become actively involved in planning large scale developments from the very early design stages to ensure their needs are justified and reflected in the outcomes;
  • partnership working and effective dialogues between service delivery partners will enable better co-ordination and planning, including timing, of service delivery; 
  • new models of service delivery should be investigated as part of considering development proposals – learning lessons from the past and promoting innovative new ways of working; 
  • various service investment programmes are likely to be implemented across local areas and therefore proposals for new developments will need to reflect and enhance current investment programmes to ensure need and capacity issues can be considered in tandem; 
  • an integrated approach to funding for infrastructure is beneficial to service provision, i.e. between public service budgets, specific project funding and private sector contributions; 
  • issues relating to funding, on-going management, maintenance and ownership of new services & facilities should be considered up front as these will have a key impact on project finances and the scope of appropriate planning obligations. 
  • local involvement in the ownership and stewardship of community assets should be fully explored to assist in creating local community governance and capacity; 
  • care should be taken to ensure that unsubstantiated or unrelated ‘wish-lists’ of potential services and facilities are not inappropriately drawn in to the process if they cannot be justified in relation to the specific project proposals and their impact, in  line with the statutory tests set out in the CIL Regulations; and 
  • in situations where it becomes clear that a development proposal will not be able to deliver the full range of justifiable services and facilities a clear steer will need to be given at as early stage as possible as to what will be prioritised.

Many of these issues and principles are complex and interrelated and therefore should be considered holistically through an overall structured process.

Last Updated on Thursday 29/03/2012 - 11:54AM

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Advisory Team for Large Applications (ATLAS), 2014