AMENITIES AND SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE
This section of the website draws together a wide range of evidence about the importance of social infrastructure and amenities in helping new communities to flourish, and the long-term consequences and costs of not providing these services when new residents need them.
Ten key factors have been identified:
New communities need services and support, not just buildings
Lack of social infrastructure affects community wellbeing
Poor design and lack of amenities has long term financial and social costs
Early provision of social infrastructure is crucial
Schools play a distinct role in supporting new communitie
Good transport connections matter
"Meanwhile spaces" - temporary facilities - work for new communities, while they grow
New communities need to provide for all generations in both amenities and services, and appropriate housing types and tenure
Eco-friendly infrastructure needs to be incorporated into physical infrastructure design
Design has a role in helping communities to be healthy
Social infrastructure and amenities are crucial to creating sustainable communities. Experience from the post-war New Towns to more recent new housing settlements has repeatedly shown that local services like schools, shops and public transport, are needed at an early stage in the life of new communities.
Equally important are the less visible types of support that make people feel at home in an area and create a sense of local identity and belonging, like volunteers or community workers who can encourage new residents to meet their neighbours and get involved in shared community activities. Extra support is also needed to help understand and use new and emerging environmentally sustainable technologies.
A wide range of evidence has identified the complex dynamics of communities and in particular, the fragile nature of new communities. It takes time for new communities to develop a sense of local identity and for strong social networks to flourish. Lessons from new settlements in the UK over the past 50 years have concluded that a lack of social infrastructure to support new residents when they arrive slows the process of building a locality-based community and can create long-term problems for the social and economic wellbeing and opportunities of new arrivals.
The long-term satisfaction of initial residents is affected, which in turn creates issues for the sustainability of new places. Support that at the outset can seem relatively small can have far-reaching consequences, such as the availability of funding to support a toddler group, set up a sports club, community workers to bring together residents from different backgrounds or direct bus routes to connect people to nearby facilities and jobs. These factors shape how inclusive, safe and tolerant new communities feel for residents and have a direct impact on local issues and services - like policing or support for young people and families - and how housing markets and the local economy perform. Evidence from the New Towns has shown how places can spiral into decline if the right mix of social infrastructure and support is not available to support new residents, creating long-term social problems and associated costs that outweigh any initial investment.