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Homes, Places and Health – an interview with Lord Nigel Crisp

Nigel Crisp is an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords where he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health. He was Chief Executive of the English NHS and Permanent Secretary of the UK Department of Health from 2000-2006.

His current focus is on creating health – promoting the causes of health, developing the health workforce, and improving health globally. His book Health is made at home, Hospitals are for repairs: Building a Healthy and Health-creating Societywas published in 2020, and addresses some of the living conditions exposed by the pandemic and their impact on individual, community, societal and global health.

Housing is of course one of the key living conditions affecting our health, and Lord Crisp has introduced the Healthy Homes Bill into Parliament earlier this year, which aims to

“make provision about the targets, plans and policies for the delivery of healthy homes and neighbourhoods; to set out the principles that define a “healthy home”; to make provision for statements and reports about healthy homes; to establish the office of the Healthy Homes Commissioner; to make provisions to ensure local housing needs are met; and for connected purposes”

The Healthy Homes bill was developed by the TCPA as part of its Campaign for Healthy Homes. It describes the proposed legislation as "a bill that transforms the regulation of the built environment to ensure that new homes and neighbourhoods support their residents’ health and wellbeing”. I asked Lord Crisp to summarise three key features:

· Recognition that all new housing development should actively promote the health, safety and wellbeing of its individual residents and their local communities

· The establishment of healthy homes principles, which embody elements essential to good health over one’s lifetime and across different populations

· An acceptance that building regulations and planning practice do not always align, and that sometimes there is good reason to relax certain aspects of regulation to provide homes that will support good health for residents and their local communities.

As a former leader in the NHS, Lord Crisp is well familiar with drivers of ill health, and I asked him how he thought this bill will, if passed, impact demand on the NHS and the provision of services to local communities. He pointed out that the principles and practices advanced in the bill are less about health prevention and more about health creation, and over the long term these will support healthier populations requiring less, or less intensive forms of care.

Does the bill get support from the housebuilding and development sectors? Yes, on a company-by-company basis, but Lord Crisp believes that it is in their strong interest for these organisations to work together to promote the bill’s aims and develop ways to adapt to its principles. “It will actually give them a competitive edge”, he commented. “This is core to their business, and not captured by trends such as ESG.”

In terms of the government’s agenda, the bill’s aims are fundamental to Levelling Up policy, and its core principles will be introduced as amendments to the government’s Levelling Up bill as that makes its way through Parliament. He points out that it is entirely in the Government’s gift to drive the healthy Homes Bill through the legislative process and how this plays out remains to be seen, but opportunities to advance its core principles through other means – such as the Levelling Up bill – will be seized.

I asked how the bill will support local residents living in new housing developments or in communities where new housing is being proposed. “Healthy Homes is built on the fundamental idea that there should be proper engagement with residents about where and how they live”, says Lord Crisp. “health becomes a meaningful platform for dialogue when it is evidenced with best practice.”

The TCPA is working with a number of local authorities, charities and other organisations to build commitment to the Healthy Homes principles – these include the National Housing Federation, the Design Council, the London Borough of Hounslow, the CPRE , Norwich City Council and the Nationwide Foundation.

If you would like to support the Healthy Homes Bill, write to your MP and/or the newly reappointed Secretary of State for Levelling up and Housing.

Clare Delmar

Listen to Locals

27 October 2022


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