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Policy S1 Developing London's social infrastructure


  1. Boroughs, in their Development Plans, should undertake a needs assessment of social infrastructure to meet the needs of London’s diverse communities.
  2. In areas of major new development and regeneration, social infrastructure needs should be addressed via area-based planning such as Opportunity Area Planning Frameworks, Area Action Plans, Development Infrastructure Funding Studies, Neighbourhood Plans or master plans.
  3. Development proposals that provide high quality, inclusive social infrastructure that addresses a local or strategic need and supports service delivery strategies should be supported.
  4. Development proposals that seek to make best use of land, including the public-sector estate, should be encouraged and supported. This includes the co-location of different forms of social infrastructure and the rationalisation or sharing of facilities.
  5. New facilities should be easily accessible by public transport, cycling and walking.
  6. Development proposals that would result in a loss of social infrastructure in an area of defined need should be refused unless:
    1. there are realistic proposals for re-provision that continue to serve the needs of the neighbourhood, or;
    2. the loss is part of a wider public service transformation plan which requires investment in modern, fit for purpose infrastructure and facilities in order to meet future population needs or to sustain and improve services.
  7. Redundant social infrastructure should be considered for full or partial use as other forms of social infrastructure before alternative developments are considered.

Social infrastructure covers a range of services and facilities that meet local and strategic needs and contribute towards a good quality of life. It includes health provision, education, community, play, youth, recreation, sports, faith, and emergency facilities. Green infrastructure in all its forms is also a key component of social infrastructure, and is addressed separately in Chapter 8, Policy G3 Metropolitan Open Land and Policy G4 Local green and open space.

Social infrastructure plays an important role in developing strong and inclusive communities. It can provide opportunities to bring different groups of people together, contributing to social integration and the desirability of a place.

Planning for social infrastructure in London is complex. There are a wide range of providers and stakeholders and the degree of clarity around future provision and funding varies. It is therefore important that boroughs work collaboratively with service providers and other stakeholders, including the local community, to fully understand existing and future social infrastructure needs and plan appropriately for these, including through the Community Infrastructure Levy. Supplementary Planning Guidance will provide details of how this could be approached.

The loss of social infrastructure can have a detrimental effect on a community. Where possible, boroughs should protect such facilities and uses, and where a development proposal leads to the loss of a facility, require a replacement that continues to meet the needs of the neighbourhood it serves. To further protect against the loss of social infrastructure that is valued by a local community or group, boroughs should consider approving the designation of a facility as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) if put forward by the local community.

In cases where social infrastructure premises may be deemed redundant and a replacement facility is no longer necessary or appropriate, other forms of social infrastructure should be considered for the site or part of the site to help to meet other community needs, before alternative uses are pursued.

It is recognised that there will be cases where social infrastructure providers are undertaking an agreed programme of social infrastructure re-provision or service reconfiguration, such as has been seen within healthcare. Where social infrastructure premises are deemed redundant as part of this process, such losses may be acceptable in line with parts D and F of Policy S1 Developing London’s social infrastructure and Policy S2 Health and social care facilities and any related information or guidance in order to achieve the overall aims of the programme and to continue to meet the needs of Londoners.

In all cases, where housing is considered to be an appropriate alternative use, opportunities for affordable housing provision should be maximised.

Social infrastructure should be easily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport in accordance with the Healthy Streets Approach. It is also important to consider the way that social infrastructure integrates with other facilities and the way people who live or work in the area might want to access it. Shared use and co-location of facilities should be encouraged, in order to align service provision, use land more efficiently and facilitate opportunities for different groups of people to come together, encouraging further inclusion and community participation. Shared use and co-location will also help facilities and service providers to work in a more coherent and joined-up way, and share maintenance and management costs. It could also potentially reduce the need to travel thereby improving accessibility. Examples of this include schools opening their facilities out of hours for use by the community, the co-location of health and sports facilities, or the co-location of facilities with housing to ensure effective usage.

Voluntary and community groups often find it difficult to find premises suitable for their needs. Unused or underused facilities should be brought into use, where possible, to help address these needs. The additional use or reuse of places of worship should be considered for providing accommodation for other traditions or faiths and/or wider community functions.