Promoting healthy urban planning

The six east London Growth Boroughs, Groundwork London and HUDU have published a healthy urban planning checklist which aims to promote healthy urban planning and mainstream health issues and impacts into the planning process. The checklist builds on the Healthy Urban Planning in Practice report which was used to assess the Olympic Legacy Communities planning application and supports the Olympic Growth Boroughs' work to achieve socio-economic 'convergence'.

The checklist was piloted in the six boroughs and by the Greater London Authority and was presented at ‘Fit Cities Fit World 2013’, a major international conference in London and at a Town and Country Planning Association ‘Reuniting Health With Planning’ roundtable at the London Borough of Newham.

Healthy urban planning means good planning and good design which can help reduce healthcare costs by preventing ill-health from factors such as physical inactivity, pollution, road injuries, poor housing and social isolation. Well-designed buildings and public spaces will generate economic benefits, both in terms of development value and community wellbeing.

The checklist seeks to ‘mainstream’ health by bringing together policy requirements and standards to assist the decision-making process. By asking a series of questions focused on a planning issue, it can quickly ensure that related health and wellbeing issues are addressed. A ‘healthy’ development can be achieved when the requirements and standards are met and exceeded.

The National Planning Policy Framework encourages local planning authorities, public health leads and health organisations to work together to ensure that health issues and impacts are considered in local and neighbourhood plans and when determining planning applications.

The checklist supports this collaborative approach. It can be used in a number of ways: to prepare a Local Plan or neighbourhood plan; to screen possible health impacts as part of an health impact assessment or environmental health impact; or to scrutinise plans and major planning applications. It should be customised for local use to reflect local circumstances and priorities. The use of the checklist in the London Borough of Newham is featured as a case study in the Local Government Association and Public Health England document ‘Public health transformation nine months on: bedding in and reaching out’ (January 2014).

The recently published online National Planning Practice Guidance refers to health impact assessment (HIA) as a useful tool to assess and address the impacts of plans and development proposals. The London Plan and many borough Local Plans also refer to the use of HIA.  For large scale development plans and proposals a HIA may be required. The checklist could be used to screen possible health impacts in advance of a detailed assessment with recommended mitigation and enhancement measures. HUDU’s Rapid HIA Tool has been widely used to assess the impacts of plans and large development proposals and infrastructure projects.

For further information, resources and examples of HIAs see also Public Health England's 'HIA Gateway'.