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Research indicates that the environment in which we live is inextricably linked to our health from childhood to old age.

Health challenges

Some of the borough’s health challenges include:

  • Poor mental health
  • Physical inactivity
  • The needs of an ageing population
  • Obesity
  • Environmental hazards such as air pollution and climate change

How the built environment affects health

The built environment is part of the ‘wider determinants’ of health and has an influence on people’s physical and mental health, shaping the social, economic, and environmental circumstances that determine our health.

For example, the design of our neighbourhoods can influence physical activity levels, travel patterns, exposure to air pollution, social connectivity, mental health, and general wellbeing outcomes. Having a good built environment can promote good health, improve access to goods and services, and alleviate, or in some cases even prevent, poor health thereby having a positive impact on reducing health inequalities.

Planning considerations

The spatial planning system, including planning applications, have great potential to influence overall health and wellbeing of the population. Some examples include the consideration of:

  • Good housing that supports the wellbeing of its occupants including location, internal design, accessibility, and quality.
  • Neighbourhood design which supports social cohesion and interaction, connectivity including transport access and active travel, opportunities for employment through location of retail, services, and industry as well as healthy food options.
  • Social infrastructure including local community facilities, educational establishment, primary (GP) and secondary healthcare facilities.
  • Provision and access to green, open and amenity spaces which support physical activity, leisure, and mental health wellbeing.

Regional and local level planning include a range of policies to support health and wellbeing, and planning applications need to consider these requirements.

How you can help

The public have the ability to influence their local built environment by:

  • Providing comments on the borough’s Local Plan at consultation stages. The Local Plan determines what kinds of development are acceptable within the borough and what the priorities should be. 
  • Commenting on a local planning application. You can comment, as well as encourage others to do so, on health-related issues that you think should be considered, for example the need for play spaces, or restricting fast food outlets near schools.

Developers have a responsibility to consider health outcomes and need to complete a Health Impact Assessment during the application process.

Updated: 19 December 2022

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