Planning for human health & wellbeing.

Mark Cope

Mark Cope, EIA Associate

Creating the conditions for society to thrive.

Our human wellbeing relies on a healthy environment. Clean air, availability of water, a stable climate, fertile soils, daylight, tranquillity etc are all ecosystem services that ensure we can be healthy.

Conversely however, maintaining a healthy environment also requires human society to function well. Social, economic and political problems only exacerbate environmental problems…

It is now widely recognised that public health is being compromised by both human intervention in the natural world and the development activity in our built environment (Barton & Grant, 2006).

So what does this mean for new developments?

The main priority for any major new development project should be about providing the conditions in which society and, ultimately humanity, can thrive.

The factors that relate to the health status of a population are known as ‘heath determinants’. These include everything from genetics and behaviours, the local economy and services, to the social and physical environment: the latter of which we can focus on.

In 2010, the Marmot Review into health inequalities in England highlighted that the wider social, economic and environmental determinants are the single key influence on health inequality in our society. Their unequal distribution can account for as much as 40 to 50 percent of variation in health outcomes.

Most strikingly, people from the most affluent areas of England will, on average, have almost 20 more years of healthy life than those in the most disadvantaged areas.

Six policy drivers were recommended to reduce health inequalities in the Marmot Review, one of which, to create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities, relates directly to planning.

Planning for human health.

The National Planning Policy Framework includes policies dedicated to ‘promoting healthy and safe communities’. Many of these align with the wider health determinants, including healthcare infrastructure, active travel, physical activity, climate change resilience, access to healthy food, air quality and energy efficient homes.

In 2017 it also became a requirement on certain major development projects requiring Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that the ‘Human Health’ impacts are assessed.

In order to address these requirements, a Health Impact Assessment is increasingly becoming a local planning policy requirement on major development planning applications.

How are we addressing this?

Our firm offers a range of environmental planning specialisations that relate to human health and wellbeing (everything from air, climate and light, to noise, security and waste). We also offer detailed Health Impact Assessments (HIA) and Population & Human Health Environmental Statement (ES) chapters, where a focus on human health and wellbeing are required.

Ultimately, this focus helps architects, developers and planners to make clear choices to actively promote human health and wellbeing, ensuring that new developments provide the conditions in which society can thrive.