15th March 2019
Measuring the social value added to a community through new developments can be quite a challenging concept to grasp. And perhaps you may question why you would even need to place an economic value on people’s happiness when you’d expect this to already be of paramount importance in the decision making process.
However we often find that the primary debate when building a new community is around outputs. How many and what type of homes are needed? How much public open space should be provided? What new or improved infrastructure is required? Whilst these outputs are important, what can sometimes be overlooked are the outcomes of these choices on people’s wellbeing. By seeking greater clarity on the impact of these decisions, housebuilders, local authorities and planning teams can develop a more informed perspective on the features and characteristics of a new development which are most likely to make people happier and healthier. Social value in its simplest form is about ensuring that wider social benefits are considered in planning decisions.
Social value is on the government’s agenda and its importance is growing. In the government’s revised National Planning Policy Framework, supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities is defined as priority, and as an industry that builds communities, we must see it as one too.
How social value is calculated
To get under the skin of how to do this effectively, we worked with research consultancy Simetrica to create a social value calculator. By adopting methods used by the government to quantify the social impact of its policies, as outlined in HM Treasury’s Green Book, and surveying our customers to understand how much certain characteristics of where they lived contributed to their wellbeing, we were able to reveal the impact of healthy, friendly and nature-rich communities.
The calculator found that living in a well-designed community of around 250 new homes where you feel welcomed and regularly speak to your neighbours can add just over £34 million worth of social value to a community. Given that we are living in a time when, according to the Office for National Statistics, there are 1.1 million more people living alone than twenty years ago, combatting loneliness in new communities must be high on the agenda.
Interestingly, our tool also calculated that over a 25 year period, the typical length of a mortgage, 1 hectare of green space could contribute £9.7 million of social value, while having a pub, bar or restaurant in close proximity can generate around £1.9 million. This goes to show the degree by which social spaces like parks and restaurants help to improve quality of life.
Why we created a social value calculator
With the guidance of our placemaking principles, Redrow work hard to ensure that we create not just a home to live in, but also a place for living. The introduction of the calculator enables us to have more informed conversations with local authorities and planning teams about our homes and investment in community focused infrastructure that will help improve people’s wellbeing. Our recommendations on community features are now underpinned by robust data, taking some of the ‘fluff’ out of potentially nebulous terms like ‘community’ and ‘well-being’.
We believe housebuilders have a duty to not only deliver beautiful, high-quality homes but also places that help residents make important and meaningful social connections that enhance the quality of their lives long after we have left the site.
Rob Macdiarmid, Group Sustainability Director at Redrow