Southampton City Council receives more than 25 major planning applications per year and has recognised that the UK planning system presents a key opportunity to unlock Social Value through new developments. As a result, the Council has been pioneering an approach that encourages planning policy to provide an accommodating environment for Social Value to be included as a key requirement from the outset.
The new planning policy and process will be instrumental in supporting the city to embed social value in all its developments more efficiently and at the appropriate stage. It will enable us to identify the most common risks and opportunities for Social Value in the planning process.
Councillor Darren Paffey, Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for children and education
Supporting developers to maximise Social Value
Up until last year, Social Value requirements had not been included in Southampton’s Planning Policy documents, but feedback from developers highlighted that early engagement with Social Value would be beneficial for all parties.
Historically, Employment and Skills Plans have been triggered later in the development process, which can prove challenging for development teams to address if they have not been considered at the outset. This leads to the developer having less time to address the needs of the area in a manner that will generate the most positive effect.
An earlier understanding of the specific needs and priorities in the area to be developed would enable bidders to incorporate a more effective Social Value plan.
As a result, the Council sought to incorporate Social Value as it underwent a plan making process, commencing in 2020 and most recently undertaking public consultation in 2022, to ensure that their Local Plan will address current issues faced in the region and set a clear and aspirational vision for the future of the city.
Embedding Social Value into Southampton’s Planning Policy
Social Value Portal supported the Council to embed Social Value into their planning process, which included creating a new requirement for a Social Value Statement within Southampton’s planning policy, and providing early signposting to Social Value priorities for Southampton within the planning process.
A Social Value Statement, submitted with a planning application, can ensure that Social Value is boosted and that local needs and priorities are met in a structured and efficient way throughout the lifetime of the development.
This resulted in the following outcomes:
- A Social Value Scoping Study, which reviewed seven existing policies for the local authority area to identify the relevant policies and objectives linked to Social Value and inform future decisions. This also provided insight into what the first steps would most likely be.
- A Local Needs Analysis, which identified the needs and priorities of the different areas in Southampton, using more than 35 datasets. This resulted in the acknowledgement of the main areas of deprivation; outdoor living environment, crime and health which helped to inform the third stage:
- The development of the Local Plan Policy Guidance, which has been prepared and justified by the Scoping Study and Local Needs Analysis to provide considered recommendations for Southampton City Council’s Local Plan Social Value Policy across four themes: Jobs, Growth, Social and Environment.
Southampton City Council’s Local Plan Social Value Policy
The Local Plan Social Value Policy has been finalised and included in the Draft Southampton City Vision 2022 as it progresses. The purpose of this Policy is to make sure that all future planning submissions will be able to show how they can contribute to making Southampton a more socially and economically inclusive and prosperous city.
Councillor Darren Paffey, Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for children and education, said: ‘The new planning policy and process will be instrumental in supporting the city to embed social value in all its developments more efficiently and at the appropriate stage. It will enable us to identify the most common risks and opportunities for Social Value in the planning process.’
Implementing the Social Value Policy
The latest stage of the Draft Southampton City Vision has been submitted to the Council Cabinet for review, and will be subject to a further period of public consultation, amendments and review by the Planning Inspectorate prior to adoption, which is expected in early 2025.
Once adopted, Southampton City Council will support developers to respond to Social Value requirements through supplementary planning guidance and face to face engagement, ensuring the policy will be implemented and the community will experience the benefits more expediently.
This article was originally published on www.localgov.co.uk on 16 March 2023