Design for Social Sustainability – Saffron Woodcraft, 2010

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Design for Social Sustainability – Saffron Woodcraft, 2010

2 THE CASE FOR

SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

“It is difficult to design a space that will not attract

people. What is remarkable is how often this has been

accomplished.”

The Social Life of Public Spaces, William H. Whyte (1980)

Boy planting, Staffordshire, UK

8 DESIGN FOR SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

2

Given the scale at which new

settlements are being planned

and developed globally, there

is a need to build both a

practical understanding and

professional commitment

to creating new cities and

communities that are socially,

as well as economically and

environmentally, sustainable.

Past experience shows that the long-term

social needs of new communities are often

overlooked in the drive to deliver housing

on a large scale. In part this is due to the

financial models that fund the development

of new communities, where government

and public agencies lead on planning, but

investment is provided by private-sector

developers. Commonly, private housing

is prioritised over local facilities in order

to provide revenue to fund community

infrastructure and affordable housing. Often

new residents move into a building site

with few, if any, shops, schools, buses or

community centres to support local social

life. Sometimes this persists for several years

while the new community grows to a size that

can support local infrastructure.

Global housing need combined with economic

pressures, and the multiple difficulties

of brokering and managing relationships

between public and private partners, will only

increase the pressure to provide homes rather

than build communities.

However, managing the long-term costs and

consequences of decline and failure in new

settlements is an issue of public value and

political accountability. The financial costs

of failure are high, but the social costs are

higher.

Without the right social infrastructure

new communities can quickly spiral into

decline. High profile failures include the

banlieues of Paris, Chicago’s Cabrini-

Green, Broadwater Farm in north

London and Park Hill in Sheffield – which

is currently being redeveloped at a cost of

£146 million. 9 Some developments, like the

THE CASE FOR SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY 9

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