Good social planning ensures support services and infrastructure are delivered early in new developments. Discover the history of the Social Planning Tool, what it does and who developed it

About This Tool

The Growth Areas Social Planning Tool was developed in response to issues experienced by residents of new communities across Melbourne related to inadequate and uncoordinated social planning . Poor social planning impacts on the liveability of places and therefore the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

Issues related to poor social planning include:

  • isolation from social support networks and loneliness
  • physical and mental health problems
  • family dysfunction and violence
  • a lack of social cohesion and disengaged young people
  • financial stress
  • long commutes for work leading to difficulties in balancing work and caring responsibilities and dormitory suburbs.

Research shows many of these issues relate to planning gaps and lack of coordination where:

  • planning for new developments is focused on land-use outcomes, without being informed by the needs of a specific community
  • there is no coordination of the planning of all stakeholders
  • infrastructure funding time-frames do not match the land-use planning process
  • demand outpaces supply resulting in a huge backlog of services and infrastructure (education, community, recreation, support services, public transport, roads)
  • early residents are left unsupported by services/infrastructure
  • community members are not involved in planning for their communities.

This Tool clarifies the social planning process. It allows stakeholders and residents of new communities to work together to ensure support services and infrastructure are delivered early, and community connection is fostered to build community resilience.

History Timeline



The Melbourne Community Foundation (now the Australian Communities Foundation) identified projects needing funding to address issues in Melbourne’s growth areas, Macro Melbourne Initiative. The Growth Areas Social Planning Tool was funded under this initiative to develop a literature.


Literature Review

The City of Whittlesea released a literature review titled “There’s Something About Community” This demonstrated that there is no established system or standards for community building in Australian growth areas. It recommended the development of a good practice guide and a social planning framework.

A project reference group was established to develop a guide in the form of a ‘Tool’. The group comprised representatives from Melbourne’s seven growth area councils and a range of stakeholders active in growth area community building.



Research was undertaken to identify best practice for community building in growth areas. The report, Creating Community – Social Connection, Community Wellbeing and Good Practice. highlighted the importance of planning for social cohesion in parallel with building the physical environment. It also identified social planning principles drawn from local and international best practice and literature.


Stearing Group

A project steering group was established to engage senior decision makers in key organisations. Consultation and further research built on the findings from the first two stages, resulting in the “Community building in growth areas: the case for a coordinated approach” and this Tool.



The Growth Areas Social Planning Tool was formally launched in September 2014 at the Docklands’ Library by the then Shadow Minister for the Suburbs, Lily D’Ambrosio.

Articles: Articles about the Tool were written for the PIA journal, Planning News, and for the VCOSS Insight journal.

Award: In late 2014, the project received a high commendation from the Planning Institute of Australia at their Planning Excellence Awards in the category of Improving Planning Processes and Practices.



A partnership has been formed between the City of Whittlesea and the property developer, Mirvac, supported by Resilient Melbourne, to pilot the Growth Areas Social Planning Tool at the Olivine residential development in Donnybrook.


Delivery of Olivine Place

An early activation community hub that will be in place at the same time as the first residents begin moving in. This is the first initiative undertaken by Mirvac and the City of Whittlesea as part of the pilot of this Tool.

Launch of the new website.

Project Partners

This project was led by the City of Whittlesea on behalf of the growth councils in metropolitan Melbourne, as well as a number of key stakeholders who share interest in planning for new communities. They included: