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Health and Wellbeing

The built and natural environments are major determinants of health and wellbeing.

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The design of the built environment, and access to the natural spaces, impacts on health and wellbeing. Spatial planning and the design of homes, buildings, public spaces, neighbourhoods and transport routes can help promote or hinder other upstream health factors such as crime, physical activity and access to healthy food. It also impacts on the wider social environment supporting or hindering community engagement.

Communities are important for physical and mental health and well-being. The physical and social characteristics of communities, and the degree to which they enable and promote healthy behaviours, all make a contribution to social inequalities in health. However, there is a clear social gradient in 'healthy 'community characteristics.

Much of what we recommend for reducing health inequalities - active travel (for example walking or cycling), public transport, energy-efficient houses, and availability of green space, healthy eating, and reducedcarbon-based pollution - will also benefit the sustainability agenda.

The Government has recognised the social and economic factors that contribute to ill health. Poverty, low wages and occupational stress, unemployment, poor housing, environmental pollution, poor education, limited access to transport and shops, crime and disorder, a lack of recreational facilities, discrimination and inequality itself all have an impact on people's health. In the light of this, many government policy documents, published over the last decade, have emphasised the significant contribution that local authorities can make to improving health and well-being, in partnership with health organisations and other partners.

Chapter 8 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) acknowledges that the planning system can play an important role in facilitating social interaction and creating healthy, inclusive communities. Local planning authorities should create a shared vision with communities of the residential environment and facilities they wish to see. To support this, local planning authorities should aim to involve all sections of the community in the development of Local Plans and in planning decisions, and should facilitate neighbourhood planning. Planning policies and decisions, in turn, should aim to achieve places which promote health and wellbeing.

It is recommended that specific references/commitment to health and wellbeing are made in the Core Plan accompanied by more detailed guidance such as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). These will naturally overlap with existing SPD's on open spaces/walking/cycling. However this will add weight to the long-term health of the community. Examples of questions for plan preparation and SPD on health are included under the heading Health and Wellbeing Impact Checklist .

Local planning authorities should work with public health leads and health organisations to understand and take account of the health status and needs of the local population (such as for sports, recreation and places of worship), including expected future changes, and any information about relevant barriers to improving health and well-being.

                                                                                Essex Planning Officers Association (EPOA)
Essex Planning Officers Association (EPOA)