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Health and wellbeing move centre stage in London

Health has emerged as a central part of the Draft London Plan.

There is a clear message of ‘good growth’ which promotes economic growth alongside securing a better quality of life for Londoners. ‘Creating a healthy city’ is one of six themes of the ‘good growth’ idea. Health and wellbeing have moved centre stage in London planning policy.

‘Healthy Streets Approach’

The Plan and Transport Strategy propose a more targeted approach to improving health in London; create streets which encourage Londoners to be more physically active. This is known as the ‘Healthy Streets Approach’ and can be understood according to ‘10 Healthy Street Indicators’, the indicators can be viewed in TfL's 'Healthy Streets for London'.

The ‘Healthy Streets Checklist’ is a tool which quantifies this new approach and allows built environment professionals to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the street design and public realm surrounding their schemes. The Plan states that developers should “use the Healthy Streets Approach to prioritise health in all planning” (Policy GC3).

This is a potentially powerful tool which allows us to evidence the human scale elements of a scheme such as landscaping and street furniture. This will help built environment professionals to decide whether to, for example, increase shade and shelter or whether there are adequate places to stop and rest. The tool will help developers to evaluate the design and performance of their development.

Health Impact Assessments

The ‘Healthy Streets Approach’ is one part of the urban health puzzle. The London Plan also supports other determinants of health, such as access to employment opportunities, social infrastructure and community cohesion. Therefore the ‘Healthy Streets Approach’ will need to work alongside the more established and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA) methods.

Plan policy on HIA remains largely the same; it is a recommended approach implemented at the discretion of local authorities. A number of London Boroughs already include HIAs as a validation requirement and we would expect this to become more common as the new London Plan takes hold.

What this means for developers

Londoners are becoming more demanding about the quality of development within their city. Concerns about air quality, social infrastructure capacity and public realm quality can all be tackled by a robust local understanding of public health.

Developers should be on the front foot in terms of what their proposals will bring to a local area. They will need to respond to specific local issues which are likely to be looked on favourably in supporting the wider objectives of the London Plan.

Amy Gilham and Amber Morley are due to present at the Building Centre in February 2018 on health and planning in London.

For more information on application of the Healthy Streets Approach or Health Impact Assessments as part of your development please speak to Amy Gilham or Amber Morley.

19 January 2018

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