In today’s rapidly evolving world, effective planning plays a crucial role in shaping our cities and communities. While aesthetics and functionality are important considerations, an often-overlooked aspect is the concept of social value. Social value refers to the positive impact that urban planning and development can have on the well-being, inclusivity, and overall quality of life for residents and diverse communities.
Fostering Community Engagement and Collaboration
Effective town planning goes beyond creating physical infrastructure; it involves fostering community engagement, communication and collaboration. When planners actively involve residents, local organisations and stakeholders in the decision-making process, it builds a sense of ownership and empowerment within the community. Through workshops, public consultations and participatory design sessions, the community’s input is integrated into the planning process, ensuing that their unique needs, aspirations, and priorities are considered and represented. This collaborative approach not only results in more informed and thoughtful urban designs but also strengthens social cohesion and builds trust between residents, planners and local authorities.
To encourage ongoing community engagement, as planners we can establish community forums, associations or online platforms where residents can contribute their ideas, provide feedback and stay updated on the progress of projects. By establishing these channels of communication, planners can build lasting relationships with the community and ensure that future developments align with their evolving needs and desires.
Promoting Inclusivity and Accessibility
Social value-driven town planning aims to creative inclusive communities where everyone feels welcome and can fully participate. This requires careful consideration of accessibility in the built environment. Planners need to ensure that public spaces, buildings and transportation systems are accessible to people with varying abilities, the elderly, and other marginalised groups. This includes features such as ramps, elevators, tactile paving and clear signage to accommodate diverse needs.
Inclusivity also goes beyond physical accessibility however. As planners we should aim to create spaces that cater to a wide range of cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This can be achieved by integrating diverse public art, cultural centres, community gardens, and multi-purpose spaces that encourage social interaction and celebrate the community’s heritage and diversity. By fostering inclusivity, we can help create a sense of belonging, respect, and equal opportunity for all residents.
It is also important to consider the role of online services as an engagement tool within the planning system. Online resources should be as accessible as possible and include tools such as high contrast and text magnifier to aid those who are visually impaired, as well as designing pages in an intuitive way. But, we must also consider those who don’t have access to the internet or technology and ensure that there are alternative methods in place. For example, ensuring that face to face engagement sessions are available that allow us to note what people want to be reflected can ease the disconnect that lack of access to technology can create. Similarly, with children using interactive spaces allows them to be more creative with explaining what they would like to see rather than masses of written information. Techniques can be tailored to be inclusive for all, so all thoughts and ideas are acknowledged and not just from those who have access to the internet.
Enhancing Health and Well-Being
The built environment has a profound impact on our physical and mental well-being. Social value-driven town planning recognises this connection and strives to create spaces that promote a healthy lifestyle and well-being. Access to green spaces, parks, and recreational facilities encourages physical activity, reduces stress, and provides opportunities for social interaction. Planners can prioritise the inclusion of walkways, cycling paths and jogging trails to encourage active transportation and improve air quality. By designing neighbourhoods that prioritise the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, planners can promote healthier lifestyles and reduce dependence on cars, resulting in lower pollution levels and improved respiratory health for residents.
In addition to physical health, social value-driven planning considers mental well-being. The design of public spaces should consider elements such as adequate lighting, seating areas, and the integration of nature, which have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. By creating welcoming and vibrant spaces, planners can promote social connections, reduce feelings of isolation, and contribute to the overall happiness and well-being of residents.
Supporting Local Economies and Businesses
Social value-driven town planning should recognise the importance of supporting local economies and businesses. By integrating mixed-use developments, which combine residential, commercial and recreational spaces, planners can foster economic growth and provide employment opportunities within the community. The presence of local businesses not only creates jobs and promotes local social enterprise, but also contributes to the character and unique identity of the town.
To support local businesses, planners can allocate spaces for small-scale enterprises, such as neighbourhood shops, markets and community-based services. Encouraging the establishment of local businesses promotes entrepreneurship, helps to retain spending within the community, and strengthens the local economy. Additionally, by supporting local artisans and craftsmen, planners can contribute to the preservation of cultural traditions and the authenticity of the community in a sustainable and positive manner.
Ensuring Environmental Sustainability
Town planning that emphasises social value aligns with the principles of environmental sustainability. By prioritising energy efficiency, green building practices, and sustainable transportation options, planners can minimise the carbon footprint of developments. Designing buildings with renewable energy sources, implementing rainwater harvesting systems, and incorporating green roofs and walls can contribute to energy conservation and reduce environmental impact.
To ensure the preservation of natural resources, social value-driven planning considers the protection of open spaces and natural habitats and ensures that there is an overall net gain of biodiversity. The integration of urban greenery, trees, and landscaping not only improves air quality but also provides shade, reduces heat island effects, and supports biodiversity. Also, incorporating sustainable drainage systems such as permeable pavements and retention ponds can help manage stormwater runoff and prevent flooding, safeguarding the environment and the well-being of the community.
Why does this matter?
Incorporating social value into town planning and developments is key to creating thriving communities that prioritize the well-being, inclusivity, and happiness of their residents. By fostering community engagement, promoting inclusivity and accessibility, enhancing health and well-being, supporting local economies, and ensuring environmental sustainability, we can build towns and cities that stand as testaments to the power of thoughtful urban planning. Let us strive to embrace social value and create spaces that enrich lives, foster connections, and build a brighter future for generations to come. By doing so, we can create and support resilient and diverse communities that inspire and nurture the human spirit.
If incorporating strong social values within your next development or project sounds like it’s for you, contact us and we can discuss this with you more. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with everything we do.