Health and wellbeing

The role of health and wellbeing in planning.

Where plans are being prepared under the transitional arrangements set out in Annex 1 to the revised National Planning Policy Framework, the policies in the previous version of the framework published in 2012 will continue to apply, as will any previous guidance which has been superseded since the new framework was published in July 2018. If you’d like an email alert when changes are made to planning guidance please subscribe.

What is the role of health and wellbeing in planning?

Local planning authorities should ensure that health and wellbeing, and health infrastructure are considered in local and neighbourhood plans and in planning decision making. Public health organisations, health service organisations, commissioners and providers, and local communities should use this guidance to help them work effectively with local planning authorities in order to promote healthy communities and support appropriate health infrastructure.

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The link between planning and health has been long established. The built and natural environments are major determinants of health and wellbeing. The importance of this role is highlighted in the promoting health communities section. This is further supported by the 3 dimensions to sustainable development (see National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 8.

Further links to planning and health are found throughout the whole of the National Planning Policy Framework. Key areas include the core planning principles (see National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 15) and the policies on transport (see National Planning Policy Framework chapter 9, high quality homes (see National Planning Policy Framework chapter 5), good design (see National Planning Policy Framework chapter 12), climate change (see National Planning Policy Framework chapter 14) and the natural environment (see National Planning Policy Framework chapter 15).

The National Planning Policy Framework encourages local planning authorities to engage with relevant organisations when carrying out their planning function. In the case of health and wellbeing, the key contacts are set out in this guidance. Engagement with these organisations will help ensure that local strategies to improve health and wellbeing) and the provision of the required health infrastructure (see National Planning Policy Framework paragraphs 20, 91c) are supported and taken into account in local and neighbourhood plan making and when determining planning applications.

The range of issues that could be considered through the plan-making and decision-making processes, in respect of health and healthcare infrastructure, include how:

  • development proposals can support strong, vibrant and healthy communities and help create healthy living environments which should, where possible, include making physical activity easy to do and create places and spaces to meet to support community engagement and social capital;
  • the local plan promotes health, social and cultural wellbeing and supports the reduction of health inequalities;
  • the local plan considers the local health and wellbeing strategy and other relevant health improvement strategies in the area;
  • the healthcare infrastructure implications of any relevant proposed local development have been considered;
  • opportunities for healthy lifestyles have been considered (eg planning for an environment that supports people of all ages in making healthy choices, helps to promote active travel and physical activity, and promotes access to healthier food, high quality open spaces, green infrastructure and opportunities for play, sport and recreation);
  • potential pollution and other environmental hazards, which might lead to an adverse impact on human health, are accounted for in the consideration of new development proposals; and
  • access to the whole community by all sections of the community, whether able-bodied or disabled, has been promoted.

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How can planning help 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 in enabling a healthier environment by supporting opportunities for communities to access a wide range of healthier food production and consumption choices.

Local planning authorities can consider bringing forward, where supported by an evidence base, local plan policies and supplementary planning documents, which limit the proliferation of certain use classes in identified areas, where planning permission is required. In doing so, evidence and guidance produced by local public health colleagues and Health and Wellbeing Boards may be relevant. Policies may also request the provision of allotments or allotment gardens, to ensure the provision of adequate spaces for food growing opportunities.

Local planning authorities and planning applicants could 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 and general poor health in specific locations
  • over-concentration and clustering of certain use classes within a specified area
  • odours and noise impact
  • traffic impact
  • refuse and litter

Planning conditions, section 106 planning obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy may be potential mechanisms for securing a healthy environment in granting planning permission.

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Who are the main health organisations a local authority should contact and why?

The first point of contact on population health and well-being issues, including health inequalities, should be 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 and their team, local authority planners should also consider engaging and consulting appropriately with the following key groups in the local health and wellbeing system:

  • The Health and Wellbeing Board – which can provide a valuable forum through which partners can help ensure that planning proposals, where appropriate, are likely to have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of local communities. Health and Wellbeing Boards bring together local authorities, the NHS, communities and wider partners to share system leadership across the health and social care system; and have a duty to encourage integrated working between commissioners of services, and between the functions of local government (including planning). Each Health and Wellbeing Board is responsible for producing a Health and Well-being 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 well-being. 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.

  • The local Clinical Commissioning Group(s) and NHS England are responsible for the commissioning of healthcare services and facilities which are linked to the work of the Health and Wellbeing Boards and the local Director of Public Health. These bodies are listed as consultees for local plans. These bodies in consultation with local healthcare providers will be able to assist a local planning authority regarding its strategic policy to deliver health facilities and its assessment of the quality and capacity of health infrastructure as well as its ability to meet forecast demand. They will be able to 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.

  • Engagement with the local community is also important. As part of this work, local planning authorities should consider approaching their local Healthwatch organisation (which represents users of health and social care services) and other community groups as appropriate.

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How should health and well-being and health infrastructure be considered in planning decision making?

Local authority planners should consider consulting the Director of Public Health 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 may be a useful tool to use where there are expected to be significant impacts.

Similarly, the views of the local Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England should be sought regarding the impact of new development which would have a significant or cumulatively significant effect on health infrastructure and/or the demand for healthcare services.

Information gathered from this engagement should assist local planning authorities consider whether the identified impact(s) should be addressed through a Section 106 obligation or a planning condition. These need to meet the criteria for planning obligations.

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

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What is a healthy community?

A healthy community is a good place to grow up and grow old in. It is one which supports healthy behaviours and supports reductions in health inequalities. It should enhance the physical and mental health of the community and, where appropriate, encourage:

  • Active healthy lifestyles that are made easy through the pattern of development, good urban design, good access to local services and facilities; green open space and safe places for active play and food growing, and is accessible by walking and cycling and public transport.
  • The creation of healthy living environments for people of all ages which supports social interaction. 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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Published 6 March 2014
Last updated 28 July 2017 + show all updates
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