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Social Value in ‘Planning For The Future’

by Wesley Ankrah

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

This is the question that I immediately 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.

One thing is sure in my mind though – this is a once in a generation opportunity to change policy through this proposal. If social value is not included within this document now, billions of pounds of added value will be potentially missed out for the communities.

So why has social value been omitted from the document?

My initial thoughts are symptomatic of some of the problems that ‘social value’ experiences within the built environment.

Social value is still misunderstood within the sector, even seen by many as an inconvenience that prevents speedy delivery of homes. Unsurprisingly, I have heard it described as a ‘tertiary priority’ by a high-ranking executive at a local authority. The term is still met with scepticism and cynicism when held up against financial accounting results, with the various measurement systems and products often producing results that the ‘lay man’ just doesn’t understand.

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. Some of the key headlines in the ‘Planning for the Future’ document present a huge opportunity to embed social value and create benefits for the businesses that follow its principles and the communities they serve.

Currently there are no incentives for incorporating social value into planning throughout the white paper. Can we purely rely on a moral sense of obligation? Or should the planning reforms include a benefit for companies that are genuinely creating change, through adopting social value principles within their business activities?

It is my belief that social value should be a benchmarking tool for the sector, just like Ofsted is in education or Food Hygiene ratings are for restaurants. The Considerate Construction Scheme has raised standards on construction sites for both workers and communities and I see no reason why social value cannot be monitored and promoted in the same way.

Public consultation on the government white paper closes next month. Follow our group: ‘Social Value in ‘Planning For The Future’ on LinkedIn to stay in the loop.

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