EVENT REVIEW: Planning a Healthier London – 4 December 2015

RTPI London’s To 2020 and Beyond Mayoral series explores the most important themes for London’s forthcoming election. On 4 December 2015, the theme was health.

tp bennett hosted this event at their HQ in America Street. The speakers were:

  • Victoria Pinoncely – RTPI Research Officer
  • Lucy Saunders – GLA and TfL public health specialist
  • Paul Scott – tp bennett Director

Slides for the event may be downloaded from here.

The RTPI’s Promoting Healthy Cities project examines the relationship between health and the built environment. Fundamentally, it governs how we live, work and socialise. This in turn influences our health and wellbeing. Planning’s role in delivering this is often underplayed and there is much more that the profession can do. Strong leadership from the next Mayor will be crucial for maximising positive health outcomes from planning in London.

As a discipline, Public Health aims to Health 1reduce health inequalities and improve overall population health. Lucy Saunders explained that most preventable deaths in London occur from a combination of being overweight and taking insufficient exercise. The biggest determinant of whether people take enough exercise is whether or not they travel actively. About 1/3 of Londoners get their daily requirement of ≥30 minutes moderate exercise purely through walking and/or cycling for transport. Half of all walking trips in London are to/from public transport stops. Public transport therefore contributes to overall exercise levels. Better public transport contributes to better health.

Health 3The quality of the walking and cycling environments needs to be improved. Sustained investment in London’s public transport system is also essential for continuing this trend. An increase in car mode share would have negative consequences for physical activity. Increases in active travel are essential for increasing population health. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy identifies significant improvements in health benefits to 2021, mainly due to increases in cycling trips.

Paul Scott linked health to wider areas of planning interest. In the first four London Mayoral elections (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012), transport was the most important issue. Housing has now become more important to more people, largely due to concerns about cost and supply. Like transport, housing affects health, in a variety of ways. If living costs are too high, people have the stress of long hours and/or financial hardship to cover rent or mortgage repayments.

Poor quality housing can itself be unhealthy, due to excessive noise, poor thermal insulation. If jobs, services and transport are inaccessible from a place, day-to-day life becomes less achievable. Poor quality public realm reduces people’s propensity for everyday face-to-face interaction; this has been shown consistently to impact negatively on health and wellbeing.

The Mayor of London has the opportunity Health 2to develop an urban agenda which integrates health and wellbeing into our places and spaces. This can only happen via integrated strategies, policies and interventions. This in turn will require input from planning professionals with a thorough understanding of public health and the ability to communicate effectively with the new Mayor and associated decision-makers.

We are grateful to tp bennett for hosting  and sponsoring the event.

GEORGE WEEKS

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