Policy WS/HD: Creating healthy new developments

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will integrate health considerations into the planning and design of new development. 

Proposed policy direction

We will seek to integrate health considerations into policies across the Plan. This would require health principles to be applied to new developments, drawing on the ten principles developed from the Healthy New Towns initiative.

Health Impact Assessments will be required to accompany planning applications (at a level of detail appropriate to the scale and nature of the application) with an updated approach to reflect good practice.

We also propose to explore a policy which restricts the development of new hot-food takeaway premises close to schools or leisure centres and limits the concentration of hot food takeaway premises in city, town, neighbourhood and village centres.

Why is this policy needed?

Place and space have a significant impact on health and wellbeing. The ability of individuals to lead healthy lifestyles is deeply influenced by the environment in which they live. Cambridge City Council identifies improving health outcomes for people on low incomes as an element in addressing poverty and inequality in the City (Cambridge Anti-Poverty Strategy 2020-2023).

Good physical and mental health is related to good quality housing and developments, well designed street scenes, well laid out neighbourhoods, quality and efficiency in transport systems, opportunities to experience community, leisure and cultural services activities and access to green and open space.

Following on from lessons learnt at Cambourne and Orchard Park, Northstowe, a developing new town in South Cambridgeshire, became a demonstrator site in NHS England’s Healthy New Towns (HNT) programme. Ten principles for creating healthy places were developed from the lessons learnt from all of the demonstrator sites in the programme:

  1. Plan ahead collectively
  2. Assess local health and care needs and assets
  3. Connect, Involve and empower local people and communities
  4. Create compact neighbourhoods
  5. Maximise active travel
  6. Inspire and enable healthy eating
  7. Foster health in homes and buildings
  8. Enable healthy play and leisure
  9. Develop health services that help people stay well
  10. Create integrated health and well-being centres.

Each principle includes a range of actions that councils and other key players in new developments can implement in order to create a healthy new place. Applying the principles will help to address the health and wellbeing of all new residents however it also creates an opportunity to address some of the health inequalities that are displayed locally.

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a method of considering the positive and negative impacts of development on the health of different groups in the population, in order to enhance the benefits and minimise any risks to health.

The HIA includes specifically a consideration of the differential impacts on different groups in the population, because certain groups are potentially more vulnerable to negative impacts from development such as those on a low income, people involved in the criminal justice system, minority ethnic groups, young, disabled (physically and learning) and elderly people.

The current South Cambridgeshire Local Plan (September 2018) included a requirement for HIAs to be submitted with planning applications subject to the size of the development. It is proposed to extend this policy across Greater Cambridge at a level of detail appropriate to the scale and nature of an application.

An area of concern in both Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire is the growth in obesity of local residents particularly in childhood. The 2018/19 Joint Strategic Needs Assessment District Summary (JSNA) (Cambridgeshire Insights) indicates that South Cambridgeshire has significantly lower levels of excess weight in children and adults, nevertheless, almost 25% of local children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. In Cambridge, a greater proportion of children have excess weight in the most deprived wards in Cambridge. 2017/18 data from Public Health England (PHE) reported in the Cambridge Anti-Poverty Strategy 2020-2023 shows that in King’s Hedges Ward the proportion is over 35%.

Public Health England in its guidance on Using the Planning System to Promote Healthy Weight Environments (February 2020) describes how hot food takeaways within easy walking distance, provide a less healthy but often attractive and affordable food options for school pupils and could be a contributing factor to poor eating habits in children and counter healthy eating programmes within schools.

It also reports that studies have found that takeaway food outlets are often located in areas of higher socioeconomic deprivation. Their data on fast food outlets by local authority found that there is a strong association between deprivation and the density of fast food outlets, with more deprived areas having more fast food outlets per 100,000 population. If we take this approach forward, we will need to identify which facilities it should apply to (for example which schools) an appropriate distance (400m has typically been applied in other areas), and what is considered to be an over concentration, based on local circumstances. The details will then be included in the draft Local Plan for consultation.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

In our First Conversation consultation, when we asked you how you think new developments should support healthy lifestyles, you raised a wide variety of issues such as the quantity, quality, affordability, accessibility and sustainability of housing, air quality, noise pollution, broadband availability, the need for formal and informal public social spaces, playgrounds and skateparks, sports facilities, swimming pools, allotments and communal gardens; and the importance of providing faith, health and community centres.

When asked about supporting healthy lifestyles, you also asked for a variety of green spaces. The need for low carbon development was also highlighted. There was support for sustainable travel from cycling and walking to public transport, and that some developments should be car free. You asked that we consider safety and accessibility by all ages and all abilities. You said employment, facilities and spaces need to be located close to or within places where people live. We should support healthy eating by reducing the number of fast food takeaways and promoting healthy, organic, eating. You wanted communities to be actively engaged both in organisation and participation of activities and inequalities between residents to be addressed.

What alternatives did we consider?

No policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative, as the health of communities is a fundamental issue planning must consider, and an important theme in the feedback we received.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 4: Wellbeing and Social Inclusion  

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy SC/2: Health Impact Assessment 

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy 28: Carbon reduction, community energy networks, sustainable design and construction, and water use 

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