The UK’s planning system should be reformed to shift the focus from buildings and infrastructure to a ‘health first’ principle, according to a new report from Key Cities, a network of 25 cities across England and Wales.
The report, The Healthy City, sets out a new vision for cities by 2050 and argues that interlinked challenges related to health, climate change, economic and technological change, inequity and social justice can be tackled by adopting the health first principle.
It makes the case for cities to be planned through the lens of supporting mental, physical and social health. Key Cities said this would require the creation of a national vision and planning strategy, and place frameworks to replace the existing local plan system.
Affordable, quality housing would remain critical but as one of several conditions necessary to support good health.
Source: Key Cities
Cllr John Merry, Chair of Key Cities and Deputy Leader of Salford City Council, said: “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 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.”
Key Cities members include Bradford, Coventry, Hull, Plymouth and Salford.
Towards ‘zero loneliness’
“Health inequity is one of the biggest challenges cities face,” Key Cities said.
The report cites growing evidence that the conditions in which people live and work and the inequities in power, money and resources that influence these conditions, significantly impact their health. This includes impacts related to air pollution, loneliness, and depression.
Further, an ageing population presents major challenges for health and social care provision.
Recommendations for a ‘health first’ city include using urban greening and biophilic design by default, creating at least 9m2 of green surface area per resident, and working to achieve ‘zero loneliness’. The report also advocates for adopting the latest approaches to cut pollution and encouraging physical activity with the provision of walking and cycling infrastructure.
The report states: “Thinking around our cities is evolving very quickly and every idea or proposal contained within this report has a basis in the real world. Changes to legislation and/or increased resources may be required to be able to implement some ideas, but none of them are impossible given what we know today about technological trends and what works, or is best practice, in terms of city design and management.”
The Healthy City was commissioned by Key Cities with research undertaken by Nexus Planning, Resilience Brokers and WPI Economics.
Steve Hughes, Associate Economist at WPI Economics, said: “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.”
Image: Simona Pilolla | Dreamstime.com
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