William Eichler 05 April 2022

City planning should be based on ‘health first principle’

City planning should be based on ‘health first principle’  image
Image: zaeball/Shutterstock.com.

The UK’s planning system should be reformed to follow a ‘health first principle’, according to a new report.

Published by Key Cities, a national network representing 25 cities across the UK, The Healthy City makes the case for cities to be planned in a way that will support mental, physical and social health through reforms at both the local and national level.

The report cites growing evidence that the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and the inequities in power, money and resources that influence these conditions, significantly impact their health.

In order to improve the conditions that shape people’s lives, Key Cities proposes the adoption of the ‘health first principle’. They argue this would require the creation of a National Vision and Planning Strategy and Place Frameworks where city authorities would embed everything known about health into plans, decision making and governance.

Cllr John Merry, chair of Key Cities and deputy leader of Salford City Council, said: ‘As the engine rooms for the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, the members of Key Cities – a network of 25 medium and small sized cities spread across England and Wales – are ideally placed to lead the transformation set out in our report. They are compact enough to be agile, but large enough to be able to make a difference.

‘It is a fundamental truth that our future health is reliant on the health of others and the health of our local and wider natural world and its ecosystems. By bringing an inspiring vision of the future of to the table, we can level up our cities with health at the fore. Ultimately, a healthier population will inspire innovation, bring communities closer and deliver better economic outcomes.’

As well as the adoption of the ‘health first principle’, the report recommends integrating nature with the built environment; creating at least 9m2 of green surface area per resident; and allowing communities to implement their own nature-based solutions.

Steve Hughes, associate economist at WPI Economics, commented: ‘Cities are the economic engines of the nation. But their continued growth and prosperity depends upon our urban areas evolving to overcome the numerous challenges that they face. The mental, physical and social health of city residents should be at the heart of this evolution.

‘Making cities more fun, more active, cleaner, less stressful and less lonely will mean a more innovative and productive population in every sector of the economy and in every community. National and local policymakers need to work together to turn the vision for the Healthy City into reality.’

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