New London Architecture

Understanding social value: NLA Expert Panel on Planning

Tuesday 01 June 2021

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Sarah Wardle

Associate Director
BECG

London Community Land Trust consultation via NLA's Public Housing: a London Renaissance report

Social value is still a relatively new concept, yet the core principles are not new to the planning system. Section 106 (S106) and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions were designed to make sure development gives back to the community. However, the social value movement is refocusing on how to deliver on these aims, causing us to think less about generic community benefits, and more about actual social and wellbeing outcomes.

Members of the NLA Expert Panel on Planning explored how social value can be better understood, and how as a sector we can improve on the delivery and measurement of social value.
 
The first barrier is that social value is viewed as a complex process, with little consistency in both the private and public sector on how to best deliver benefits. 

Some boroughs such as Islington, Camden, Southwark and Haringey are more advanced in setting out their expectations on social value whereas in others there is a notable knowledge gap and developers are expected to lead the way.

To overcome inconsistency the panel felt that regional guidance, perhaps through the next iteration of the London Plan could assist in bringing a mutual understanding to local authorities and developers alike. 

More clarity should also be afforded to measurement, with the focus going beyond just the quantitative cost benefit analysis measurement tools to draw attention to the qualitative benefits to individuals and communities. Nevertheless, the panel is keen to avoid guidance stymieing innovation and creativity.

There was a consensus that social value should not be shouldered solely by the developer and there should be greater collaboration between the wider industry and local authorities. This collaboration is key to success as it must be recognised that social value outcomes will be linked to the scale and duration of a project.   

The panel all agreed that successful social value strategies are the result of comprehensive community engagement. Engagement must be authentic. It should not be a Machiavellian tactic to achieve a planning consent but be done to help better understand the needs of communities, and build the foundations for long-term collaboration. If this is done right, strategies will be tailored to deliver the largest benefit to the community and individuals. 

Much of how we talk about social value today can be likened to the early stages of the sustainability agenda, where there was little faith that one day we would be able to implement and measure sustainability. What we do know is that social value is not going away. Advice and guidance on social value will move at pace frameworks will be established, then replaced as we all learn to adapt and the onus is on the entire development industry to seriously consider how social value is embedded in respective organisations and how that is carried through the development process in perpetuity. 


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Sarah Wardle

Associate Director
BECG


Planning

#NLAPlanning


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