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It's time to plan good health into our neighbourhoods

18 June 2009

Launch of RTPI Good Practice Note 5: Delivering Healthy Communities

  • RTPI calls for public health promotion and tackling health inequalities to be integrated into planning
  • New guidance from the Institute highlights that planning is key to healthy lifestyles; access to green space, minimising car use and promoting access to fresh food can have a significant impact on people's health
  • The RTPI believes that local health trusts should be made statutory consultees for local planning procedures to strategically \"plan in good health\"

The Royal Town Planning Institute has called for the planners of today to build on the achievements of their Victorian forefathers who led the fight against unhealthy living by utilising powers already at their disposal to make our communities healthier and more sustainable.

The Health Care Commission recently warned that the NHS would experience large deficits as the health needs of an increasingly elderly population and increasing costs of health care exact their toll on budgets. Many of today's increasingly common ailments such as obesity and heart attacks are a result of how we live our lives, yet there already exist various powers that town planners can use to make our neighbourhoods places in which people's health is promoted rather than harmed.

However there is still a problem of recognition of this fact by spatial planners and health professionals. The RTPI has been engaged in bridging the professional gap that has emerged between the health and planning professions and the Good Practice Note represents the culmination of our efforts to date.

Key messages in the new guidance include:

  • The importance of integrating public health and spatial planning processes to enable planners and health professions to promote health through the delivery of neighbourhoods by considering health throughout the planning process from plan making to development management.

  • That spatial planning has a key role to play in shaping environments which make it possible for people to make healthier choices about exercise, local services, travel, food, nature and leisure.

  • There are strong synergies between the measures used to mitigate and adapt to climate change and those associated with addressing health issues including promoting walking and cycling to reduce car use and carbon emissions, building energy efficient homes to reduce carbon emissions and reduce deaths from cold, and providing parks and open spaces that help towns and cities to cool down, whilst also providing space for leisure and exercise.

Bob Mayho, Principal Policy Officer, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said:

\"The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health welcomes the new RTPI Good Practice Note 'Delivering Healthy Communities.' We firmly share the view that there is an urgent need to improve understanding on a wide range of urban-environment interactions that influence health. With the RTPI, we believe that the best way to do this is by integrating public health and spatial planning processes, thus enabling the two professions to promote health and wellbeing through the delivery of neighbourhoods that promote and provide opportunities for active lifestyles.\"

This guidance has been led by the RTPI Environmental Planning and Protection Network (EPP).