Social value in procurement for housing should extend beyond skills and employability.
Delegates at Fusion21’s Buy Smarter conference were told that as well as employment and training, often the most familiar aspects of social value, supporting the local community, local businesses and the environment should also be considered in procurement and the planning process.
Helen Fisher, director of housing, regeneration and planning for the London Borough of Haringey, said that their procurement strategy is largely based on the Social Value Act and takes issues such as local labour, modern slavery and wellbeing, as well as environmental issues like air quality, into consideration.
“Certainly in the last couple of years, public health has been a key part in the development of new proposals and that just wasn’t the case a few years ago. We need to think about how we design buildings, but also the space around those buildings and how these spaces work together,” she said.
During a panel discussion on social value in construction, Rachael Atkin, corporate social responsibility manager at Fusion21, said: “The Town Planning Act came into effect to assess public health issues and this is sometimes overlooked. It’s been interesting to see that recently there has been more emphasis on public health, design and communities.”
Tom Kenny, acting deputy head of policy and research at the Royal Town Planning Institute and co-investigator for the Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, said traditionally when design in planning is valued, it’s in relation to how much it adds to property prices rather than the benefits it provides to the community.
“We’re interested in the social outcomes of design and how design at a very general level can improve people’s wellbeing, how it makes them have a more positive experience of the area but also more specific metrics around environmental outcomes, around crime and around community. There aren’t particularly good ways to measure this at the moment, which means often it isn’t adequately valued,” he said.
Alice Lester, head of planning, transport and licensing for the London Borough of Brent, agreed: “To me, it comes back to why most planners became planners which is a belief that the planning decisions you make are about making better places. It’s about how easy it is for communities to integrate, social interaction, fitness, the accessibility of places, that a place can have an identity and feel safe from crime.”
Lester said Brent is currently working with Quintain on the redevelopment of Wembley Park, a project that has led to 184 apprenticeships for the local community, taking place throughout the supply chain.
When discussing how to drive social value within projects, Rita Patel-Miller, social value manager at Kier, said: “As a main contractor, our role is to make sure that it does permeate down into our supply chains. It’s really important to negotiate that with the client. It has become more sophisticated. It’s evolved from ‘We need to get people into work’ to training them, to now being much more specific around ex-offenders or care leavers. It’s really important to work in partnership with the client to make sure you’re working on social value collaboratively.”