Creating your evidence base

1. Who will live here, and when? – Demographic and social data

Comparable communities can provide insight into the likely social profile of an area at the start of the planning process. Growth area communities generally develop over 10–15 years and their social profile changes significantly over that period. A development's target market, housing stock and amenities are key drivers of the future community's profile.

Questions to consider

  • What can comparable developments tell us about the demographic structure of this development?
  • What age groups and household types are likely to live in this community?
  • What does the type of development–such as expected housing prices and housing size–tell us about who might live here?


Similar developments may have been attractive to CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) communities. There may be a need to provide multi-lingual services for groups or culturally-specific services.

The development is targeted at a lower price range in the growth area housing market. Therefore, there is potential for lower income families and housing stress in this community. Service planning should respond to this.

Information sources

This table shows factors to consider when selecting communities to compare.

  • Research or evaluations.
  • Discussions with council staff and service providers regarding the social needs and issues they observe and respond to in existing growth area communities.
  • Consultation with residents in both comparable communities and in the new community as it forms.
  • Discussions with developers or landholders regarding their target markets.
  • Investigating likely block sizes, housing typologies and price points in the development with council's strategic planners and urban designers.

Quantatitive data sources in Victoria

2. Timeframes and sequencing

Knowing the speed of growth and the sequencing of development in an area will inform the timing of community building initiatives and where services or facilities should be located first.

Questions to consider

  • Over what timeframe is the development expected to occur?
  • Does this affect how services will need to be provided?


The first stage of development is located away from adjoining communities, which means that members of the new community won't have access to existing facilities. An appropriate response would be planning early delivery of key services and facilities in the first stage of development.

Information sources

Discussions with council's planners, as well as landowners and developers.

3. Community needs and aspirations

Understanding community needs and aspirations ensures an appropriate and localised community building response.

Questions to consider

  • What social issues do nearby, established communities face?
  • Can services and activities within this development help respond to these outside needs?
  • As the community develops, what needs and priorities are evident?
  • Does current service planning respond adequately to these needs?


The adjacent community reports significant shortfall in access to youth services and activities. Youth activities and services can service the adjacent community, as well as the subject development.

Information sources

Comparable and existing communities can be consulted at the start of the planning process.

Residents can be consulted as they move in and the community is established.

4. Application of benchmarks

Benchmarks for services and facilities give an initial quantitative indication of needs according to population numbers. They provide a firm guide when there is relatively limited information available about community needs and when community facility sites need to be identified in the planning process.

Benchmarks can also be used to gauge the levels of service and facility provision compared to other communities.

The social profile of comparable communities can be overlaid to an estimated population of the new community with benchmarks used to establish the likely quantitative demand for services and facilities.

When interpreting benchmarks for the first iteration of community building requirements, it is important to think critically about their application. Benchmarks should be used in conjunction with your wider evidence base to ensure that they are balanced with local demand influences and qualitative data.

Questions to consider

  • What can planning benchmarks tell us about which services are unlikely to be provided?
  • What can be done to ensure residents can still access these services in outside areas or through outreach activities?


The benchmarks suggest there is insufficient population within a development to support a local primary school. This shows a need to consider how residents will access alternative education opportunities, and how transport connections will be created.

Information sources

The range of available service and infrastructure standards are:

  • The Victorian community infrastructure standards for growth areas (PDF, 7.52MB) that have been developed by growth area councils with the Metropolitan Planning Authority.
  • Internal council benchmarks that give more consideration to local factors such as participation rates and provision models.
  • State government agency standards such as provision for schools and recreation.
  • Benchmarks developed by peak bodies for different infrastructure and services (for example, Tennis Australia).
  • The City of Greater Dandenong's Social Services Benchmarking Tool quantifies local demand for key social services.

The Social Services Benchmarking Tool

5. Broader demand influences

There are needs and issues that are relevant to all growth area communities that inform community building, as well as more specific municipal and regional demand factors.

Questions to consider

  • Are regional-level trends (such as participation rates in different sporting or volunteering groups) likely to be reflected in this new community? How will these trends influence service and program provision?
  • What is current research telling us about health and well-being needs in growth area communities? How can we ensure that we respond to these issues in the new community?


Low levels of volunteering in the wider area limits social capital across the region. This creates the opportunity to employ volunteering and participative community development programs in this development.

Research shows increasing levels of cardio-vascular disease in comparable growth area communities. You might consider healthy lifestyle and physical activity programs as a priority for this development.

Information sources

Information about demand can be found in strategies and research undertaken by:

  • the local government in which the growth area is situated.
  • surrounding local governments, where relevant.
  • the Metropolitan Planning Authority.
  • the state government.
  • research institutes and peak bodies.

6. Policy directions

Government priorities and policy directions–along with planning undertaken by service providers–can provide information about community building issues, priorities, preferred delivery models and current funding directions.

Movement patterns–including locations and methods of transport–help to identify where services and facilities should be located and which parts of the community may be at risk of social isolation.

Questions to consider

  • What are the social development priorities of state government, service providers, and local council? How is our planning addressing these priorities in the local area?
  • What does physical planning for the area tell us about connections to outside services, communities, infrastructure and activities? How are these priorities being addressed in the local area?


Limited access and poor physical integration with nearby, existing communities creates a need to consider a larger quantum of local services and facilities, due to a lack of facilities and services.

Increasing focus on mental health in state and federal government policy suggests that preventative mental health programs for socially isolated community members should be a key part of the service mix.

Information sources

Websites of state government agencies.

Internal council policies and strategies.

Strategic plans and service plans obtained from service providers.

Analysing transport plans, layout of the development and movement patterns with council's strategic planners and/or urban designers.

7. Services/facilities and their capacity

An increased population will impact on existing services, programs and facilities in the surrounding area and broader municipality. You should consider:

  • existing community building initiatives in surrounding areas that can respond to the needs of the new community.
  • existing deficits in the surrounding areas' services or programs that will mean they are unable to absorb increased demand from the new growth area.
  • unmet needs that could potentially be located in the new growth area to service a broader catchment.

Questions to consider

  • Do existing services and activities in the wider area have capacity to absorb demand from the new community? If so, how can we promote access for the new community members?
  • What existing community assets are present in the wider area? How can we leverage the presence of these assets as the new community develops?


There is insufficient existing capacity at the local health service to provide for an additional 2,500 residents in the area. Health providers will need to explore opportunities to expand infrastructure and service funding in the area.

Information sources

An audit of the services, programs and facilities that the new community is likely to access in the surrounding area and broader municipality.

Consulting the staff providing/coordinating services, programs or facilities with regard to capacity and demand.

Consulting with residents about how they are accessing services, programs and facilities and whether their needs are being met.

8. Update your evidence as the community develops

At key milestones during the community's development, you should be monitoring:

  1. resident needs and aspirations.
  2. information from relevant council staff and service providers about issues, needs and opportunities observed in the community.
  3. changes in development timing or sequencing.
  4. quantitative data as it emerges for that community–particularly differences in the demographic profile from original projection, (such as a higher number of retirees than originally projected).
  5. actual provision of services and facilities compared with benchmarks, as well as changes in the benchmarks themselves.
  6. relevant information resulting from research and evaluation.
  7. changes in policy and funding directions.
  8. influences from surrounding areas that impact this community, (for example, another new growth area is being developed adjacent to this one).

Engaging the community