Emphasis On Healthy & Safe Communities

Whilst the connection between the quality of the built environment and health outcomes has long been established, in 2012 the NPPF introduced a step change in the breadth of factors that we as place-makers should be considering as part of the planning process.

Gone were the days of ‘health’ policy being limited to the delivery of a health centre, or ensuring a site can be accessed by a footpath. The NPPF recognised that the health of communities can be affected by decisions across a range of land uses, from spaces that encourage social interaction to the provision of schools, and from the delivery of social, recreational and cultural facilities to the active use of public areas. Whilst no definition of health is included in the current NPPF, the thrust of chapter 8, ‘Promoting healthy Communities’, reflects the World Health Organization’s well-recognised definition: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Chapter 8 of the consultation draft NPPF retains this broad approach but of greatest significance, the chapter includes added emphasis on the promotion of safe communities. Overall there is a clear aim for policies and decisions to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places. To this end, the chapter continues to promote social interaction and the creation of safe and accessible places where crime and disorder - and the fear of crime - do not undermine community cohesion. However, there is also a new paragraph on enabling and supporting healthy lifestyles through the provision, for example, of safe and accessible green infrastructure, sports facilities, local shops, access to healthier food, allotments and layouts that encourage walking cycling.

By far the most significant proposed change in this chapter (and one that reinforces its new title) is the introduction of a paragraph to promote public safety and to take into account wider security and defence requirements (paragraph 96). The proposals are unfortunately responding to our modern reality that attacks do occur (thankfully relatively rarely in the UK). Whilst back in July 2017 the Chief Planner reminded local planning authorities of the role the planning system plays in ensuring appropriate measures are in place in relation to counter-terrorism and crime prevention security, national policy has been restricted to general paragraphs on crime in Chapter 8. The draft NPPF is now more explicit and introduces two elements to the proposed policy:

  1. anticipating and addressing all plausible malicious threats and natural hazards, especially in locations where large numbers of people are expected to congregate; and,
  2. recognising and supporting development required for operational defence and security purposes, and ensuring that operational sites are not affected adversely by the impact of other development proposed in the area.

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Credit: March 2018, Helen Ashby-Ridgway, Lichfields