The story of social infrastructure

Why you need to start at the end
My interest in wanting to explore the definition of social infrastructure starts with the end in mind – i.e. our aim to exceed our customers’ expectations.  However, before we get to that point we must walk the story back to understand the landscape in which we operate. It must, therefore, begin with understanding how social infrastructure is defined and used by policy makers in a planning context at both a national and local level.  If we can understand this term in the same way as our customers, it provides us with an opportunity to understand their needs and better meet their requirements.

Then you can look to the beginning

“Social infrastructure includes provision for a wide range of services including; health, education, community, cultural, play, recreation, sports and faith and emergency facilities and services”[1] .  “Social infrastructure, when successful, helps meet people’s needs at all stages of their lives, confirming our sense of place and becoming a part of our identity[2].

The story within its context

Stories can be better understood by their context.  In this story, the current policy and planning framework provide the positive context through which our partners will respond.

Social infrastructure is recognised at a national level through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (2012).The NPPF contains 12 core planning principles, one of which relates specifically to social infrastructure, stating that planning should: “take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all, and deliver sufficient community and cultural facilities and services to meet local needs.”[3]

Additional context is provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s Local Plan.  Ambitions in this plan extend to:

  • Giving cities more control over transport, housing, skills and healthcare with elected metro mayors.
  • Supporting local authorities to help create strong local economies and deliver high quality, value for money services.[4]


At both a local and national level, the term ‘social infrastructure’ is being used by policy and planning departments to consider their response to the built environment.

However, whilst there is strong commitment to the delivery of social infrastructure in policy terms, one could argue that its actual implementation has been harder to achieve.  Social infrastructure includes a very wide range of services; the component parts themselves often struggle to join up into a cohesive body. Osborne, in partnership with our public and private customers, is already doing this on a small scale.  The real opportunity however, is for Osborne to deliver this on a larger scale; to act as the catalyst for those disparate organisations to work together to look at a cohesive social infrastructure offering for a given locality.

Caroline Compton-James – Osborne

[1] The London Plan, 2015, Social Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Guidance, May 2015,  Introduction , page 10

[2] The London Plan, Supplementary Planning Guidance on Social Infrastructure, May 2015

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework–2

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dclg-single-departmental-plan-2015-to-2020

View interactive map