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Is early evaluation the key to successful redevelopment?

Whether regenerating estates or developing new neighbourhoods, the planning system does not encourage an understanding of the social make-up or needs of communities. Although fairly diverse, Britain´s towns and cities are becoming increasingly segregated and unequal, with social groups often living parallel lives. The preparation of Neighbourhood Plans and local Development Plans are intended to give local people a voice in the process, but they rarely provide a proper understanding of existing problems and how to address them.

In the Draft New London Plan, the Mayor of London calls for the introduction of ‘early evaluation’. If made a formal part of the process by which areas for redevelopment or regeneration are selected, it could greatly increase the chances of creating successful communities. ft’work has proposed three types of early assessment, which could potentially be combined: a demographic survey, to understand the make-up and diversity of the existing community; a social needs assessment, to identify existing problems; and a social infrastructure survey, to establish the need for community facilities, from schools and day centres to pubs and shops. If developers and planners were required to understand the social context and take it into account, design proposals would be more targeted. Development would then be more likely to benefit rather than threaten the existing community.


Photo: Clare Richards

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