Healthy and safe communities

Guidance on promoting healthy and safe communities.

22 July 2019: This guidance has been updated – see previous version.

Achieving healthy and inclusive communities

How can positive planning contribute to healthier communities?

The design and use of the built and natural environments, including green infrastructure are major determinants of health and wellbeing. Planning and health need to be considered together in two ways: in terms of creating environments that support and encourage healthy lifestyles, and in terms of identifying and securing the facilities needed for primary, secondary and tertiary care, and the wider health and care system (taking into account the changing needs of the population).

Public health organisations, health service organisations, commissioners, providers, and local communities can use this guidance to help them work effectively with local planning authorities to promote healthy and inclusive communities and support appropriate health infrastructure.

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What are the main health organisations that need to be involved in considering planning for health?

Engagement between plan-making bodies and relevant organisations will help ensure that local strategies to improve health and wellbeing and the provision of the required health infrastructure are supported and considered in plans (including in the preparation of strategic policies for community facilities). Where these comprise strategic cross-boundary matters, agreements, joint working and progress can be documented in statements of common ground.

The first point of contact on population health and wellbeing issues, including health inequalities, is the Director of Public Health for the local authority, or at the county council for two-tier areas.

Working with the advice and support of the Director of Public Health, plan-makers may also need to involve the following key groups in the local health and wellbeing system:

  • Health and Wellbeing Boards encourage integrated working among commissioners of services and functions of local government (including planning) for the advancement of the health and wellbeing of people in their area. Each Board is responsible for producing a Health and Wellbeing Strategy which is underpinned by a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. This will be a key strategy for a local planning authority to take into account to improve health and wellbeing. Other relevant strategies to note would cover issues such as obesity and healthy eating, physical activity, dementia care and health inequalities. Data and information from Public Health England is also useful as part of the evidence base for plan-making.

  • NHS England and local Clinical Commissioning Groups are responsible for the planning and commissioning of high-quality healthcare services and facilities for their local area. These bodies are consultees for local plans. They can provide information on their current and future strategies to refurbish, expand, reduce or build new facilities to meet the health needs of the existing population as well as those arising as a result of new and future development.

  • Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are about redesigning services around the needs of whole areas, not just individual organisations. They bring together NHS providers, commissioners and local authorities and other health and care services to run services in a more coordinated way to agree system-wide priorities, and to plan collectively how to improve the health of local communities. They will evolve into Integrated Care Systems making faster progress across their areas, bringing together organisations to provide more seamless care for patients. They also produce strategic estates plans which should be the basis of health infrastructure engagement with plan-making bodies.

  • Local Healthwatch organisations understand the needs, experiences and concerns of people who use health and social care services in their area. Engagement with the wider local community is also important.

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What is a healthy place?

A healthy place is one which supports and promotes healthy behaviours and environments and a reduction in health inequalities for people of all ages. It will provide the community with opportunities to improve their physical and mental health, and support community engagement and wellbeing.

It is a place which is inclusive and promotes social interaction. The National Design Guide sets out further detail on promoting social interaction through inclusive design including guidance on tenure neutral design and spaces that can be shared by all residents.

It meets the needs of children and young people to grow and develop, as well as being adaptable to the needs of an increasingly elderly population and those with dementia and other sensory or mobility impairments.

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Revision date: 01 11 2019 See previous version

How can planning create a healthier food environment?

Planning can influence the built environment to improve health and reduce obesity and excess weight in local communities. Local planning authorities can have a role by supporting opportunities for communities to access a wide range of healthier food production and consumption choices. Planning policies and supplementary planning documents can, where justified, seek to limit the proliferation of particular uses where evidence demonstrates this is appropriate (and where such uses require planning permission). In doing so, evidence and guidance produced by local public health colleagues and Health and Wellbeing Boards may be relevant. Planning policies and proposals may need to have particular regard to the following issues:

  • proximity to locations where children and young people congregate such as schools, community centres and playgrounds
  • evidence indicating high levels of obesity, deprivation, health inequalities and general poor health in specific locations
  • over-concentration of certain uses within a specified area
  • odours and noise impact
  • traffic impact
  • refuse and litter

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How can local authorities help control the litter associated with hot food takeaway?

Changing the use of land or a building to a hot food takeaway will require a planning application. Local Planning Authorities should consider seeking details from applicants, setting out what measures will be put in place to reduce the litter associated with a proposed development, to ensure there is no unacceptable impact from litter on the amenity of the area. Details can include proposals to install litter bins, commitments to undertake litter picking and advisory signage. Litter generated from such premises may be deposited away from the immediate vicinity of the premises. Councils can consider the wider effect this has on local amenity – such as by asking for premises to undertake litter picking to collect litter (generated from off-sales from that premises) which has been deposited further away from the immediate vicinity. It will, subject to meeting the relevant tests of conditions, often be appropriate to impose conditions to require ongoing compliance with any measures proposed.

Other regulatory tools

In terms of broader regulation, the relevant legislative framework is extensive and includes criminal sanction (see the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse for details on criminal offences, powers open to local authorities including in relation to enforcement, and the standards expected of local authorities and certain landowners/occupiers with regard to their duties to keep land clean and clear of litter and refuse). For example, section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 empowers Local Planning Authorities to require owners/occupiers tidy up a site if it is adversely affecting the amenity of the neighbourhood. There are also relevant powers available to local authorities contained in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the Licencing Act 2003. It may be appropriate for Local Planning Authorities to make applicants aware of these powers in order to emphasise the importance of ensuring appropriate measures are put in place to avoid non-compliance with standards and obligations.

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How can the need for health facilities and other health and wellbeing impacts be considered in making planning policies and decisions?

Plan-making bodies will need to discuss their emerging strategy for development at an early stage with NHS England, local Clinical Commissioning Groups, Health and Wellbeing Boards, Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships/Integrated Care Systems (depending on local context), and the implications of development on health and care infrastructure.

It is helpful if the Director of Public Health is consulted on any planning applications (including at the pre-application stage) that are likely to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the local population or particular groups within it. This would allow them to work together on any necessary mitigation measures. A health impact assessment is a useful tool to use where there are expected to be significant impacts.

Information gathered from this engagement will assist local planning authorities in considering whether the identified impact(s) could be addressed through planning conditions or obligations.

Alternatively, local planning authorities may decide the identified need could be funded through the Community Infrastructure Levy.

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Promoting the benefits of estate regeneration

What is the role of planning in promoting estate regeneration to create sustainable, inclusive and balanced communities?

Plan-making can play a crucial role in estate regeneration by setting a strategic vision and framework and establishing the principles to inform development early in the process. It is particularly important that planning policies consider the need for estate regeneration and involve communities in their production, to help build a shared understanding of the issues and opportunities in each place.

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Supporting the delivery of sufficient school places to meet the needs of existing and new communities

How can plan-makers assess the need and demand for school places?

Local authorities with education responsibilities forecast the need for new school places and report this to the Government through an annual school capacity survey. They consider natural population change such as birth rates, the effects of parental choice, and estimate additional needs from new housing with reference to pupil numbers from recent developments and other evidence. The Department for Education has published the ‘Securing developer contributions for education’ guidance for local authorities on estimating pupil numbers from new housing and securing contributions for the creation of additional school places for all education phases (age 0-19 years and special educational needs) over the plan period.

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How can plans allocate land for education?

Plans should seek to meet the development needs of their area, including community facilities such as schools. They should, at the most appropriate level, allocate sufficient suitable land for schools to meet the need anticipated over the plan period, taking into account needs that may cross local authority boundaries. Plan-makers will need to work with local authorities with education responsibilities and developers to coordinate the phasing and delivery of housing growth with the delivery of new school places to ensure that sufficient school capacity is available at the right time. Mainstream schools must be of a viable size and format and planned for on the basis of standard class sizes.

Precise site allocation policies provide clarity and certainty by identifying the total amount of land required for education use, with regard to the Department for Education space standards, and any necessary characteristics for the school site such as its shape, accessibility and serviced provision at an appropriate time. Master planning of large developments with multiple developers can help to inform decisions about the appropriate scale and siting of new or expanded schools.

Future-proofing may also be considered, for example designating land adjacent to education sites to allow for future expansion if required. Where a plan safeguards additional land specifically for education, the land can be made available for purchase by the local authority within a suitable period, after which other uses may be permissible. If the additional land is required for education, this will preclude alternative uses for the purposes of land valuation.

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Supporting safe communities

What is the role of planning in preventing crime and malicious threats?

Planning provides an important opportunity to consider the security of the built environment, those that live and work in it and the services it provides.

Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (as amended) requires all local, joint and combined authorities (as well as National Parks, the Broads Authority and the Greater London Authority) to exercise their functions with due regard to their likely effect on crime and disorder, and to do all they reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder. Crime for these purposes includes terrorism.

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How can planning help to achieve resilient places?

Good design that considers security as an intrinsic part of a masterplan or individual development can help achieve places that are safe as well as attractive, which function well, and which do not need subsequent work to achieve or improve resilience. However good security is not only about physical measures and design; it requires risks and mitigation to be considered in a holistic way.

Local, joint and combined authorities may find it helpful (either through decision taking or plan-making) to undertake a Security Considerations Assessment (SCA) process or take into account a SCA process undertaken by developers and other applicants as part of the design, construction and management of new developments or assembling a masterplan. SCA provides a mechanism by which organisations can demonstrate, through a fully documented process, that potential security-related vulnerabilities have been identified, assessed and, where necessary, addressed in a manner that is appropriate and proportionate.

Good design means a wide range of crimes from theft to terrorism are less likely to happen by making committing those crimes more difficult. It helps create safer places, infrastructure and buildings that are less vulnerable to terrorist attack and, should an attack take place, where people are better protected from its impacts. It can also reduce the cost and impact of security measures by avoiding retrospective works and enable mitigating measures to be blended into the environment.

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How can potential malicious threats in crowded places be addressed?

For all locations which will generate crowds in public places, applicants and local planning authorities should consider appropriate security measures in the design of buildings and spaces. Good counter-terrorism protective security can also support wider crime prevention. There are a number of sources of guidance available including:

The consideration of security requirements will need to be proportionate to the size and nature of the development, the anticipated number of users and the wider setting. As well as understanding the purpose of the site, how it will operate and its potential to be regularly crowded, consideration will need to be given to measures that directly or indirectly mitigate identified threats as far as is proportionate. This could include protection of the public from vehicles used as a weapon or as an Improvised Explosive Device.

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Where can local authorities and others go to for further advice on measures which provide appropriate security and resilience?

As well as the above referenced guidance, local police Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSAs) and Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs) have training and experience of advising on security, are independent in their advice and have further access to more specialist resources where required, including the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). Local planning authorities should consider referring appropriate planning applications for public access buildings and spaces to the police who will determine the appropriate specialist input.

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Published 6 March 2014
Last updated 7 August 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added Paragraph 013: How can local authorities help control the litter associated with hot food takeaway?

  2. Amended paragraph 003.

  3. Revised version of guidance

  4. Added new paragraph 006.

  5. First published.