ATLAS Guide
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T8.1: The key components of social & community infrastructure

The definition of social infrastructure can include a huge range of services and facilities that meet the needs of residents, promote social interaction and enhance the overall quality of life within a community. These can include elements such as schools, health centres, leisure and recreation facilities, libraries, community halls and meeting places and religious facilities. It can also include broader infrastructure used by a local community such as local shops, open spaces, transport and utility services. The definition can focus on the needs of different categories of end users, e.g. active elderly, children and families, disability, black and ethnic minorities, and can even be broadened to cover the provision of different typologies of housing for social purposes (e.g. special needs housing, sheltered housing, nursing homes).

Thus, the definition of social infrastructure can be quite broad. This paper focuses on the following elements of social infrastructure that are operated largely by the public sector and are key services that are typically considered when looking at the needs of large scale new developments that include a significant amount of housing. However, it is important that the starting point for any residential project is consideration of what social infrastructure is likely to be provided given the nature of the proposals and the context of the place – more information on the approach to this is provided later in this paper. 

  • Health & social care: primary care, health centres, doctors/GP surgeries, hospitals and tertiary care.
  • Education: nursery/pre-school, primary, secondary, further and higher education, & adult training.
  • Leisure and recreation: parks, allotments, open space, play areas, sports centre, burial grounds and associated facilities including WCs;
  • Emergency services: Police, Fire, and Ambulance.
  • Other community & cultural infrastructure, including libraries, community halls, youth clubs, arts projects, and community development.

Often individual components of social infrastructure are considered in isolation and it will be important to ensure that the planning process is collaborative in order to deliver more effective and efficient services into the future, whilst retaining the flexibility to respond to changes in lifestyles and needs over time. There is a growing emphasis on the co-location of services to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery. This concept along with other initiatives for service provision are encapsulated in concepts such as Total Place and Total Capital, as well as Capital and Asset Pathfinders, which considered a whole area approach to, and a new direction for, local public services with significant new freedoms from central control. They show how through bold local leadership and better collaborative working, it is possible to deliver services which meet people’s needs, improve outcomes and deliver better value for money This can help ensure that any investment is used to maximum effect and that residents have easy and convenient access to an appropriate range of services in their locality. 

The Local Strategic Partnership, where this or an evolution of it still exists,  could have a central role in guiding infrastructure planning in the local area. The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) provides a useful resources book to assist the process of local infrastructure planning (more information is available via the links below).

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

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Advisory Team for Large Applications (ATLAS), 2014