SPACE TO GROW
This section of the website draws together research and practical experience from a range of sources to investigate why new communities need to be designed with ‘space to grow' - flexible spaces, structures and services that can adapt as communities evolve and change.
Five key factors have been identified:
New communities evolve slowly as social networks develop and populations age and shift
Community master planning needs to be flexible
New communities need flexible use of land and buildings
‘Meanwhile use' should be encouraged
Social networks also need time to develop and to organise local governance structures which suit them
Adaptability is one of seven core objectives of urban design identified by CABE. If a new community is to be successful and sustainable, the place - the physical space, the amenities and the social infrastructure - needs to be able to adapt over time to new needs and new possibilities.
Getting the balance right at the planning stage is crucial, but it presents a challenge and is not easy. As has been argued in other sections of the website, new developments need to be well planned to ensure that basic amenities and a robust social infrastructure are in place from the time that residents begin to move into their new homes. However it is impossible to anticipate all the future needs of a community or to know what ideas, imagination, skills, capacity, enterprise and leadership the people themselves might bring. Also many aspects of social development cannot be planned in advance - community projects, governance arrangements and other local institutions need to evolve, building on relationships, recognition of common interests, a sense of mutuality and trust between residents and other stakeholders that again needs time to develop.
These processes also need to be supported through investment in community development alongside the provision of local services. But in order to allow new communities to flourish, planning authorities should avoid a rigid ‘master-planning' approach that seeks to create a blueprint for the future. Rather, master plans need to be developed as "frameworks", or broad parameters to allow for a degree of ambiguity, uncertainty and openness to change, recognising that a new community will develop best if it is allowed to be dynamic and to evolve in ways that the designers and planners cannot entirely predict.