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Plan for health and growth, RTPI urges

30 June 2015

Plan for health and growth, RTPI urges


There has been much focus on the need for cities to plan for growth, but the value of planning in promoting health is obvious and yet often overlooked, says the RTPI.


Janet Askew, President of the RTPI who is speaking at the international conference “Achieving Green, Healthy Cities” in Bristol today, said:


“Health problems such as obesity, chronic heart disease, stress and mental health issues are intricately linked to the physical environments in which people live and work. Cities need growth, but at the heart of that must be citizens’ well-being. It makes economic sense and good planning can help to achieve both.


“Planners have an important and often creative role in the battle against ‘lifestyle diseases’ – from making streets safer and more attractive to walk in and locating housing where there are services, to reducing car dependency and creating green spaces. It is time to put health at the top of the planning agenda.”


This draws on the RTPI’s 2014 anniversary publication, Promoting Healthy Cities, which highlights the role of planning as a long-term, preventative and proactive solution in creating healthy cities.


In a presentation at the conference, RTPI research officer Victoria Pinoncely will advocate

  • improving the decision making process for where health services are planned and located. Health provisions are often designed at a national level, detached from the environments in which they operate.  A more local, integrated and cross sectoral approach is needed.
  • better governance and greater integration of health and other policies. The responsibility for “health” should be shared more widely outside the healthcare and public health sectors, and city governments should have the power necessary to tackle health issues.
  • gathering better intelligence on the social and economic determinants of health in order to guide decisions and investments. Currently there are gaps in the evidence that prevent health issues from being effectively incorporated into planning decisions, and vice versa.

Victoria Pinoncely said:

“Can cities be good for health? Of course they can. The real challenge is to get the right governance and decision making process at the right level and involving the right people. The RTPI believes that the planning profession can work more closely alongside other sectors - healthcare, food retail, social services, developers, transport providers, schools, employers and regeneration - to positively guide decisions and investments in cities that will result in better health outcomes.”


Key facts and figures:

  • Poor quality housing is estimated to cost the NHS at least £790m a year (Building Research Establishment, 2013)
  • Walking and cycling projects return an average of £13 ($20) in economic benefit for every £1 ($1.50) invested (University of California Active Living research unit 2015)
  • Making places better for walking can boost footfall and trading by up to 40% Good urban design can raise retail rents by up to 20% (The Pedestrian Pound: the business case for better streets and places, Living Streets, 2013).
  • During a 12-month period, 1.4 million people miss or turn down or choose not to seek medical help because of transport problems (Making the case: improving health through transport, NHS, 2005)
  • The rise of health challenges such as non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health could cost £28 trillion globally, over the next 20 years according to the World Economic Forum (2011).