We are experiencing an unprecedented intersection of planning, development and public health in our government policy, local communities, and public attitudes, creating opportunities for organisations in the property sector to differentiate their brands and deliver sustainable impact in the communities they serve.
Public awareness and commitment to local environments and public health are at an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic, build back better campaigns and the drive for affordable homes.
In the last few weeks the government’s much-awaited levelling up White Paper unveiled an agenda which has at its core the variation in life expectancy across the nation, and establishes the urgency to reduce health inequalities as a cornerstone of levelling up proposals.
At the same time there are initiatives to redress the balance of tackling health inequalities, engaging responsible actors in the private sector where central and local government are struggling to deliver change:
· Business for Health was established last year as a business-led coalition of socially responsible employers, purchasers, investors and innovators supporting long-term sustainable innovation and investment in preventative health and care. Its aim is to enhance the health and economic resilience of the UK, catalysing and facilitating business contributions to reduce health inequalities and add five years to healthy life expectancy·
The NHS has recently developed a framework for businesses to actively promote public health through 10 channels
As a sector with direct and long-term impact on the health & wellbeing of local communities, property developers and investors have an opportunity to leverage these initiatives and pioneer a collective approach to promoting public health and reducing health inequalities through the planning & development process. While developers cannot dictate how people should live their lives, they can shape the built environment and provide local services that remove barriers to healthier lifestyles and actively encourage and support public health.
Several immediate actions that a “Developers for Healthy Places” collective might undertake:
o Rethink, redesign and reapply the Health Impact Assessments that inform planning decisions on major schemes. A renewed, post-pandemic approach to the HIA would integrate emerging metrics for wellbeing, changes in NHS structures and opportunities for community involvement.
o Agree examples of best practice in developing healthy communities and reference these in new proposals
o Create a developers’ charter on planning, development & public health and actively promote across business and local government and campaigner communities
o Create joint initiatives and host physical spaces showcasing opportunities across health and care, giving a voice to and being shaped by local communities.
Local communities will benefit from this approach as local health needs and aspirations are brought to the table for residents and community organisations to discuss, debate, implement, monitor and sustain.
Benefits to developers in embracing this initiative are multiple:
o Community engagement around win-win issues
o Local support in planning applications
o Association with positive campaign with local impact
o Reputational gain
o Positive connection with planning, business and NHS communities
o Leveraging of public and private funds
Listen to Locals, a campaign to create opportunities for local participation in planning, is aiming to form a collective of property developers, housebuilders, property investors and constructors who see the benefits of defining as a developer of healthy places. This collective could make a significant impact in shaping both public opinion and the government’s levelling up agenda, while simultaneously opening up new opportunities for development and regeneration.
If you’re interested, or know an individual or organisation that might be, please get in touch.