What’s next for social value in planning?

Written by

James Wood


How can we plan for the future if we don’t plan with social value in mind?

This is the question that I first asked myself after I finished reading the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper, when I realised the words ‘social value’ were not mentioned throughout the whole document.

Now after a period of debate and reflection within the social value and built environment sectors since the consultation closed in October 2020, it has been interesting to analyse the responses to the proposed planning reforms from planners, developers, local authorities and the VCSE sector, amongst many others.

Social value is still clearly misunderstood within the sector, and still hasn’t shaken off the perception that it is an inconvenience that prevents speedy delivery of homes. However, is this the fault of social value not carrying enough weight in the highly saturated space of built environment due process, especially within the planning system? You only have to log onto a planning portal for a scheme of over 50 units to be immersed in a sea of statutory documentation. So how does another document or consideration for social value add any benefit to a system all soaked in bureaucracy?

Well in my opinion, social value offers something that all the other documents don’t, an opportunity drive up the value of development to communities in non-commercial terms. It also doesn’t have to be a central government driven agenda with the ability for local government to include social value driven incentives within their local plans and planning process.

In fact, I believe this is where social value is destined to have its next wave of impact, at local level. Obviously, the planning reforms have not yet been completed, but from speaking with people within policy, the consensus is that central government are unlikely to include something that adds regulation, to a process that has been about deregulation from the start.

This however should not detract from its importance through the planning process. The very essence of the Social Value Act is to add value to existing practices and should therefore serve as a facilitator of change for communities and their stakeholders.

I guess the next question is how do we achieve this? Does social value need to be rebranded and repackaged? Will the new Social Value Model for public procurement give it that creditability that any piece of legislation needs to be seen as ‘heavyweight’ in the policy world?

I’ve long been an advocate of using social value as an incentive to drive positive action for our communities. However, for it to truly be a factor to be considered alongside viability and commercial returns, it needs to have a shared value for the private, public and voluntary sectors, ensuring that all stakeholders are benefitting from what should be the ‘golden thread’ of the planning process.

Join the debate

Join us for our upcoming webinar – ‘Delivering Social Value in Planning’ – where you’ll be able hear perspectives on how the public, private and voluntary sectors can all benefit from a collaborative approach to maximising social value through the planning process.

The session will take place at Friday 12th March 2021 from 10 – 11am and BECG will be joined by an expert panel including:

  • Joanna Busz – Social Value Lead, Waltham Forest Council
  • Gus Alston – CEO, Stonegrove Community Trust
  • Harry Manley – Director, The Collective
  • Wesley Ankrah – Founder & Managing Director, SeerBridge
  • Andrew Howard – Managing Director, BECG (Chair)

Sign up for your free place today


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