District Plan

Chapter 9: Social & Community


9.1.1 Social and community provision covers a wide range of services such as health, education, community and social services. These services are provided and run by a number of agencies and organisations, including Hertfordshire County Council, the Borough Council, the East and North Herts Health Authority, North Herts Trust and the voluntary sector.

9.1.2 This Plan can only be concerned with the provision of social and community facilities in terms of land use implications. The Plan aims to ensure that adequate provision is made for social and community facilities in future developments and that existing facilities are protected.

9.1.3 The concept and development of Stevenage as a self contained New Town was based upon the principle of a balanced and self supporting community of neighbourhoods. Social and community facilities were provided on this neighbourhood basis and are generally located at the Neighbourhood Centres which are within walking distance of most residents. This provision enables easy access even for those who are less mobile. However, it is recognised that some needs cannot be provided on a neighbourhood basis and should be located centrally.

9.1.4 The demand for social and community facilities changes as the structure of the population changes and new trends develop. New facilities or the improvement of existing facilities is therefore required to meet these changing demands.


9.2.1 It is important that each neighbourhood community has a focus within which social and community facilities are provided. These facilities should be accessible to everyone, but especially to those who are least mobile.

9.2.2 Social and community facilities are generally located at the Neighbourhood Centres. These are within walking distance of most of the residential areas and many are also served by passenger transport. Any loss of existing facilities will result in a reduction in the level of provision and reduce accessibility for those people who require these services.


The retention of existing social and community facilities will be expected unless:

(a) the existing facility can be satisfactorily relocated within the development proposal; or
(b) it can be demonstrated that there is no demand or need for the facility or that the facility is not needed for any alternative social, community or leisure use; or
(c) the facility has been or will be replaced in an appropriate alternative location.

9.2.3 The demand for social and community facilities does change over time. Many of the community buildings, which were built in the early days of the New Town, are now beginning to age. The Borough Council will, therefore, support the modernisation, improvement, extension or replacement of existing social and community facilities and will continue to support the provision of such facilities on a neighbourhood basis.

9.2.4 The dual use of school buildings, and private social facilities for community use has potential to make an important contribution to social and community facility provision in Stevenage at the local level. Whilst the dual use of facilities should not be considered as a substitute for dedicated community facilities, dual use can help address any deficiencies in provision, improve local access to facilities and allow better use to be made of existing resources. The dual use of existing facilities for use by the local community is therefore encouraged by the Borough Council. Further policy guidance for the dual use of schools is set out in the Leisure chapter.


The improvement, extension, redevelopment or replacement of existing social and community facilities will be considered favourably.

9.2.5 The standard of social and community provision varies between the neighbourhoods because the facilities were developed at different times. This has resulted in a higher standard of provision in the north of the town than in the south. In areas where there are fewer social and community facilities, the Borough Council will favourably consider proposals for new facilities in the neighbourhood centres.


Proposals for additional social and community provision within the neighbourhood centres will be considered favourably unless they have a detrimental effect on the residential amenities of the area or the local environment.

Policy L6

9.2.6 The ability of those responsible for the provision of social and community facilities will depend on the level and use of resources available to them. It is important to recognise that it may not always be possible to make provision for new facilities at neighbourhood centres because of the land use requirements of the particular facility. The Borough Council has, therefore, identified other sites where such facilities could be located.


The following sites, as shown on the Proposals Map, have been allocated for social, community and leisure uses. Other uses will not be permitted, except in exceptional circumstances.

1. Broadhall Centre
2. Scarborough Avenue
3. Sishes End

9.2.7 It is important to ensure that the standard of social and community provision is maintained in new developments, to provide for their own needs. Such facilities should normally include a community centre and a doctors surgery. The Borough Council recognises that this level of provision can only be reasonably expected to be provided where the development is sufficiently large to support such facilities. The Borough Council will, therefore, expect social and community facilities to be provided in major residential developments.


In major new residential developments the provision of social and community facilities commensurate with the scale of development will be sought. Account will be taken of the level of existing services and an assessment made of the level of new services required as a result of the proposed development.

Policy SW19


9.3.1 Central government, Health Authority and County Council policies aim to provide community-based health and welfare facilities and services. The Borough Council supports the commitment to provide care in the community for those with special needs and will give favourable consideration to such initiatives including supported housing schemes, core and cluster arrangements, care and residential homes in existing and new residential areas. Preference will be given to those initiatives in areas with easy access to neighbourhood centres.


Favourable consideration will be given to care in the community initiatives for those with special needs in existing and new residential areas.

Policy H12


9.4.1 The County Council is responsible for education provision and for determining the level of provision required. In the case of existing schools, the County Council adjusts existing resources to meet different demands arising from the changing age structure of the population. Population changes may result in a demand for additional provision or a reduction in provision, or a shift from one type of provision to another. In major new residential developments, educational sites need to be reserved for demands which may arise in the future.

9.4.2 The County Council has two reserved sites for schools to meet future needs of the town, these were first allocated in the Stevenage District Plan 1983. It takes time for new areas to settle before the demand for school places stabilises. The County Council considers that both of the existing reserved school sites need to be retained to meet future needs. The Borough Council will require that any educational development gives full consideration to the importance of the Hertford Road site in relation to its role within the Green Link EN10/1. Development of this site will be subject to the provisions of policy EN10.


The sites listed below and shown on the proposals map will be reserved to meet future needs for schools. The development of these sites for uses other than for education will not be permitted unless it is proven that they are not needed in the long term.

1. Poplars
2. Hertford Road

9.4.3 In planning education provision, and assessing the impact of development proposals, the County Council, as Local Education Authority, will consider school provision within the neighbourhood or local area for primary education and within the town for secondary education. It is recognised that major new residential areas require appropriate provision to be made for educational facilities. In such cases the major new residential developments, the provision of land and appropriate contributions for educational purposes will be sought. The level of contribution sought will be commensurate with the scale of development and the need for additional provision. Borough Council will expect land and contributions towards the cost of built facilities for educational purposes to be provided. However, where there are several smaller developments, they may jointly increase the demand and needs for education provision. In these cases, the Borough Council will expect a contribution towards meeting the educational requirements arising from the development. Contributions are unlikely to be sought for developments comprising less than 25 units (net).


Where major new residential development is proposed planning obligations will be sought to provide land or an appropriate contribution for educational purposes.

Where smaller sites come forward for residential development then a contribution towards additional educational facilities will be expected, commensurate with the scale of the development. Account will be taken of the level of existing provision and an assessment made of the requirements arising from the proposed development.

9.4.4 Schools tend to be a focus of the community in which they are located and can provide a wide range of facilities for community use outside school hours. Many school buildings and facilities are used for community activities, for example Parent Teacher Associations or sports clubs. The exact level of usage of buildings and other facilities varies considerably between schools. However, if schools are closed these resources will be lost to the community. Therefore the Borough Council expects that where closure occurs that the appropriate buildings are retained or replaced for those community uses. The requirement to ensure that provision is retained or replaced will of course be related to the existing level of usage and the needs of the local neighbourhood. It is essential that there are adequate facilities available for community activities to continue. It may be that there is accommodation nearby which can be used as efficiently and effectively, but the Borough Council will want to be sure that the local community is not disadvantaged. In addition it may be that where a number of buildings have been used in the past for community activities that through reorganisation fewer facilities need to be used to provide the same level of activity. Policy L13 in the Leisure chapter provides guidance on the appropriate uses of redundant school playing fields.


In determining the future use of any redundant or surplus school buildings, where the existing school buildings are used for community activities or where there is a demonstrated need in the neighbourhood for the provision of indoor community facilities, it will be expected that either:

(a) the buildings in use or needed are retained or replaced as part of any redevelopment scheme; or
(b) the facilities will be replaced or accommodated within existing facilities in the neighbourhood.

Policy L13

9.4.5 At the present time schools are often not used to their full potential for community uses, other than for educational purposes. This is an under use of valuable resources. Therefore, the opportunity to improve community access by encouraging the dual-use of facilities will be supported by the Borough Council. The Leisure chapter provides guidance on proposals for the dual-use of school buildings or the joint provision of new facilities for leisure, social and community uses.


9.5.1 A site for use by travellers was allocated in the Stevenage District Plan 1990 Review at Norton Green, to the west of the A1(M). The site at Norton Green has been developed as a permanent site for travellers and the Borough Council would wish to retain this provision.


The loss of the Travellers site at Norton Green will not be permitted unless alternative provision in an acceptable location is made.


9.6.1 There are two cemeteries in Stevenage; one at Almonds Lane which has reached capacity; and the second at Weston Road. Whilst Weston Road still has capacity, additional provision will need to be made for the long term future. The Borough Council will, therefore, safeguard land adjoining the Weston Road cemetery for future needs. Separate provision for a cemetery will need to made in the strategic housing development at Stevenage West.


Land is allocated for additional cemetery provision at Weston Road to meet future burial requirements as shown on the Proposals Map.

Policy SW23


9.7.1 In recent years there has been a change in the provision of surgeries and clinics from single practitioners to the development of group practices for both doctors and dentists. These group practices require different facilities to those of a lone practitioner and generate more traffic and disturbance to those living in the adjoining area. Therefore, group practices are an inappropriate use for a dwelling house in a residential area. The Borough Council will encourage group practices to be located on sites adjacent to, or in, the neighbourhood centres.

9.7.2 In major new residential developments the Borough Council will expect provision to be made for doctors and dental surgeries within the development, in conjunction with other community facilities.


Proposals for group practices for dentists and doctors will be favourably considered in the neighbourhood centres. Proposals for the establishment of doctors and dental surgeries in residential properties will be resisted.


In major new residential developments, where new neighbourhood centres are proposed, planning obligations will be sought to provide land and appropriate contributions towards the provision of purpose built accommodation for doctors and dental surgeries.


9.8.1 With the increase in life expectancy, there is a growing number of people who need constant care and attention. To cater for these needs, there are nursing homes which provide residents with a considerable level of medical care and residential homes which provide for the general welfare and care of the elderly. Such homes are sometimes provided through the conversion of large residential properties rather than in purpose built accommodation.

9.8.2 The Borough Council accepts that it is essential to ensure that such accommodation is provided. However, it is also necessary to ensure that such provision does not have a detrimental effect on adjoining properties or on the surrounding area. Therefore, the provision of car parking and access must meet the standards set out in the Vehicle Parking Provision Supplementary Planning Guidance. In addition, the Borough Council considers that such homes need to be well located in relation to local shopping facilities and other social and community facilities.


The conversion of large residential properties to, or the development of, nursing and residential homes will be considered on their merits and on the following criteria:

(a) location; and
(b) traffic generation and access; and
(c) relationship to surrounding properties; and
(d) ability to meet standards set out in the environmental safeguards; and
(e) relationship to local social, community and shopping provision.


9.9.1 The Lister Hospital was built to provide hospital services for the people of Stevenage and also for a wider area. As the services provided by the hospital have increased so the hospital has expanded to accommodate the services. Due to the limited size of the hospital site there is a danger that further expansion of the hospital will result in the demand for car parking on the site increasing. The Borough Council supports the provision of additional hospital facilities but is concerned about the implications this may have in terms of traffic generation.

9.9.2 Currently the hospital is served by a number of bus services, but services from some parts of the town are better than from others. The Borough Council will encourage a change in travel patterns to and from the hospital, both from patients, visitors and employees. In the event of major development taking place, the Borough Council will expect a commuted sum for the provision of enhanced passenger transport services to and from the hospital and the submission of a green commuter plan. Further guidance is set out in the Transport chapter.


As part of any further development, which would result in a significant increase in the demand for car parking on the Lister Hospital site, the hospital administration will be expected to demonstrate that a green commuter plan is being progressed and in appropriate circumstances will seek commuted sums for the enhancement of travel modes other than private motorised transport.

Policies T4 and T15

9.9.3 An opportunity to provide additional health care facilities was identified in the Stevenage District Plan (1994). Therefore, a site was allocated to the north of the hospital to provide additional health facilities for Stevenage. Part of the site has been developed as a nursing home whilst part remains undeveloped. The Borough Council remains concerned that provision should be made for any additional health care facilities and, therefore, has allocated the remainder of the site for such uses.


A site at Coreys Mill, north of the Lister Hospital, is shown on the Proposals Map for the provision of health care facilities.