Ensuring Social Impact of Schemes Are Considered; the Government's Green Deal Represents a Major Opportunity to Deliver Long-Lasting Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits. but Engaging with Communities and Businesses and Measuring the Long-Term Impact Should Not Be an Afterthought, Says John Adlen, Director of Sustainable Futures at Staffordshire University

Article excerpt

Byline: John Adlen

What gets measured gets done' is the famous maxim from American business guru, Peter Drucker. Unfortunately, when it comes to major public sector programmes in the UK we don't always adopt this mantra and we have largely failed to measure the social, economic and environmental impacts of Government-backed regeneration initiatives. The reality is that most decision making in the public sector is typically based on a rather narrow cost/benefit analysis. But there are many other things that are valued by individuals, communities and wider society that cannot easily be reduced to pounds, shillings and pence. Regeneration programmes over the last twenty years have consistently suffered from two key failings. First, they have failed to track and assess their long-term social and environmental benefits. Second, they have largely failed to engage with the communities they have supposed to be regenerating.

This didn't seem that important during the boom years when the public sector and private investors were literally throwing money at regeneration schemes. But the last Government's foray into some of the North and Midlands' most deprived communities with the Housing Market Renewal Programme, ended in broken promises, recriminations and mistrust. While the lifespan of this programme was prematurely cut short by the Coalition Government, the programme was beset by overpromising and under-delivering and accusations of riding rough-shod over communities.

This year will see the launch of a new Government-backed initiative that could transform our housing stock and commercial office space. Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister has promised that the Green Deal is set to be the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War. The scheme aimed at renovating millions of energy-inefficient homes and office buildings across the UK is a major opportunity, not just to cut energy usage and tackle climate change, but also to trigger wider regeneration and sustainability benefits.

The Green Deal will undoubtedly deliver major economic and environnmental impacts including new jobs in the construction industry, reduced household fuel bills, increased value of housing stock and lifecycle maintenance savings for home owners and landlords.

However, the potential social impacts of this scheme are significant too. Careful scheme delivery could contribute to people's wellbeing and better health (mental and physical), deliver improved occupier comfort levels and even increase the reputation of neighbourhoods and social housing providers of social housing stock.

Despite the Green Deal's Autumn 2012 launch date many details of the scheme still need to be clarified. And now is the time that we need to agree how this scheme will be monitored and measured. We need to establish a comprehensive baseline and identify how we collate information from all of the scheme's beneficiaries - homeowners, landlords (commercial and residential), utilities, retailers, installers and manufacturers. Fail to do this properly and we miss a golden opportunity to truly understand the impact of sustainable homes and their relationship to people, communities and business. …