Design Council and Social Change UK today launched our Healthy Placemaking report which highlighted the outcomes from their survey of over 600 built environment practitioners across the UK including architects, town planners and urban designers. The aim being to gain insight and understanding of their experiences across multiple areas on healthy placemaking, and the possible barriers and challenges found.

The environments where we live and work have a major impact on our health. As the government strives to meet its target of 300,000 homes a year and respond to the growing demand for public services, particularly in health and social care, there has never been a more important time to actively encourage the design of healthy places.

This latest research from Design Council and Social Change UK notes that healthy placemaking can sit outside mainstream UK housing, public health and placemaking policy. It continues to be seen as a cost to local development rather than an investment, and when considered alongside the plethora of local planning priorities and frameworks it often gets overlooked.

However healthy placemaking can make a significant difference to our health, helping to tackle preventable disease through the environments in which we live. Investment in the future of our towns, cities and villages must have a focus on creating healthy places not only to improve health but to deliver sustainable communities that boost local economic growth and improve people’s lives.

As a lead in design and built environment, we understand that Design Council has an important role to play to support the sector and government to come together and fully recognise the value of healthy places. We are keen to hear from you about how we can support and scale healthy placemaking. We have an opportunity to make lasting change and create happier, healthier, sustainable communities. We are absolutely committed to helping achieve this.

How does Design Council define healthy placemaking?

Healthy placemaking means “tackling preventable disease by shaping the built environment so that healthy activities and experiences are integral to people’s everyday lives.” Physical inactivity alone is responsible for one in six UK deaths (equal to smoking) and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually. Behaviour patterns are responsible for 40% of the cause of premature death in the UK. The evidence substantiates the theory that improved physical and mental health can be supported by designing neighbourhoods that enable:

  • Physical activity: To increase walkability in buildings and neighbourhoods and encourage healthy modes of transport
  • Healthy food: To improve access to healthier foods
  • Social contact: To design well-connected housing and neighbourhoods that provide access to facilities and amenities to reduce social isolation and loneliness,
  • Contact with nature: To provide access to the natural environment, including parks
  • Pollution: Reducing exposure to air and noise pollution.

This all adds up to compact, mixed-use, walkable neighbourhoods with leafy streets and great parks

Making change happen

Healthy placemaking enables a healthier and happier population, improves our standards of living, reduces preventable disease, and has the potential to alleviate pressure on health and social care services. Change requires action at all levels of people working in the built environment.  To achieve this, we recommend:

  • Government: the government must remain committed to developing healthy places, making sure it runs throughout the revised National Planning Policy Framework 
  • Local Government (including combined authorities): local authorities should embed healthy placemaking across all local and neighbourhood plans with health seen as intrinsic to economic and social development priorities
  • Practitioners:built environment practitioners and developers should promote and demonstrate a firm commitment to healthy placemaking. Practitioners should work with key bodies from across the sector to promote the need for healthy placemaking, presenting a stronger case which influence much larger numbers of well-designed places which support the health and wellbeing of communities being delivered.

Design Council's commitment

We recognise that in our unique position, we have an important role to use our knowledge, insight expertise and influence to implement sustainable, lasting change. The steps we are taking to achieve this include:

Collaboration: We will continue to work with all stakeholders in the built environment to promote consistent policy, commissioning and practice that supports healthy placemaking

Data: We will continue to expand our use of data to better understand the social, economic and health needs of local people for our design advice service

Best practice: We will shortly be launching an online inclusive environment training tool for all built environment professional which has been developed in partnership with the Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government

Supporting delivery: We will begin a close working partnership with Homes England to take forward the findings of the research. As part of this work, we will collaborate with key stakeholders across the built environment to identify opportunities to deliver real change to make healthy placemaking happen.

For more information, download our Healthy Placemaking report

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