The link between good planning and good health is unequivocal. There is a clear correlation between the quality of the built and natural environment and community health and wellbeing. National Planning Policy Guidance, the London Plan and a number of local planning policies already encourage the submission of “health impact assessments” as part of the planning application process, but could we see health playing a bigger role in planning?
The political pressure to address health concerns suggests so. On Friday 2 September 2016, Sadiq Khan and 29 other mayors from major global cities called on national leaders to “build a low carbon, climate safe world“, urging governments to secure the ‘Paris Agreement’ (the world’s first global deal to fight climate change).
On Thursday 1 September 2016, the Health Select Committee published a report recommending that local authorities be given more power to create healthier communities. It asked the government to enshrine health as a “material consideration in planning and licensing laws“, saying that “the current planning process continues to be a major impediment“.
On the same day, the Commons Environmental Committee published a report seeking the retention of the EU renewable energy target for 2020. It reported that transport emissions have increased for the last two years and that transport is now the largest emitting sector.
Improving air quality is one of the new Mayor of London’s key aims, and is also on the Department for Transport’s (DfT) “to do” list. The DfT confirmed that it is creating Clean Air Zones in five city centres and is looking at other initiatives to reduce emissions. Improvements to the UK’s cycle network are expected, particularly following the recent letter from various Olympians calling for infrastructure improvements in the UK’s towns and cities.
With consumers and investors more engaged than ever on this topic, developers are also looking at “green initiatives” to stay in the race. As the Health Select Committee has acknowledged, with the right support, the planning system can help to achieve change in this area, for a happier and healthier society.