Ended on the 18th March 2021
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Chapter 12: A Healthy Community

A Healthy Community

12.1 Good masterplanning and the high quality design of buildings, outdoor spaces and the relationship between them make an important contribution towards health and wellbeing. It can lift the spirits or have a negative impact on people. Internal living spaces, personal and shared, and access to open space are known to help people relax and counter the stress of modern urban life.

12.2 Considering health and wellbeing as an opportunity can help to improve the quality of a scheme for both its marketability for people occupying a building. Figure 12.1 shows factors that contribute towards health and wellbeing while the Health and Wellbeing Planning Guidance (Hertfordshire County Council, 2017) sets out seven themes that should be considered and incorporated into the planning of new developments to ensure they are promoting health and sustainability. These include; air quality, movement and access, open spaces, design, employment and education, and healthy food choices. The Coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted how important both public open space and quality internal living spaces within a home are to people.

12.3 The health of an individual and the wider community is often dependent of a variety of issues, and the way people go about their everyday living. While not limited to the following, the Local Plan can help to positively influence the following contributors to health and wellbeing in Watford:

  • An active population: taking steps to manage increasing child obesity and the location of unhealthy food outlets and providing better access to open spaces and community facilities.
  • Community severance: physical and mental barriers such as busy roads affect the perception of safety, and restrict individuals' mobility and social interaction. This can be improved through a more community orientated public realm that prioritises people and provides better access to services and facilities through improved infrastructure and public transport.
  • Poverty and deprivation: historical economic, environmental and social patterns affect the quality of living but can be improved through better access to education, quality jobs, improving support for people with disabilities and providing high quality places to live.
  • Environmental quality: poor air quality and other disturbances such as noise, light, odour and vibration are commonly associated with vehicle traffic and industrial emissions. These can be improved through higher better use of technology, prioritising non-vehicular travel such as walking and cycling and also locating new development where people will not be adversely affected by pollution. Ensuring that uses are located where they are compatible will benefit physical and mental health and reduce conflict.
  • Mental health: high population densities have higher rates of mental health issues compared to rural areas, including almost 40% higher risk of depression (RTPI Planning for 'well beings' 2020). Well designed internal and external spaces within new buildings and outdoor public spaces provide an opportunity to create healthy places to live and improve the neighbourhood.
  • An ageing population: the changing age demographic will place increasing demand for new homes and facilities. Providing adaptable and specialist homes, improving access to community facilities and providing well designed spaces that enable people to interact and continue to feel part of their community are integral to sustainable development.

Strategy Policy HC12.1: Healthy Communities

Creating a high quality environment encourages physical activity through easier movement for pedestrians and cyclists, and helps improve people's mental health by creating spaces (urban and green) that are welcoming, pleasant and encourage activity and social interaction between people of all ages.

New development will be supported where it will contribute towards an inclusive and healthier community through delivering these objectives:

An active population

Tackling obesity in children by creating opportunities for active play in new development. Encouraging adults to become more active with a more pedestrian and cycle-friendly urban environment that is focused on quality safe spaces for people, not dominated by the car or suffering from community severance. Major developments should support the provision of accessible open space that offers appropriate opportunities for outdoor physical activity to meet local needs. This should be supplemented by new and enhanced greenspaces to support health and wellbeing. Major developments are expected to promote active design by adhering to the 10 Principles of Active Design set out by Sport England.

Healthy eating

Supporting healthy eating through the protection of community assets, such as allotments, community orchards and planting of fruit trees on open spaces. Opportunities for food growing should be maximised within new developments.

Pollution

Improving air quality, noise and light pollution by locating compatible uses in the vicinity of each other, reducing the impact of vehicles through a modal shift and slowing average vehicle speeds.

Poverty

Supporting initiatives to tackle poverty, such as back-to-work schemes, training and education and access to jobs using good public transport.

A healthy older population

Providing homes and facilities to meet the needs of an ageing population such as adaptable and specialist homes and access to health facilities.

Community facilities

It is important to ensure community facilities are of good quality and are located where they can be accessed by walking, cycling and public transport. Consideration should also be given to sensory gardens to provide a diversity of colour, patterns, smell, touch, taste and sounds to benefit physical and mental relaxation or in particular to benefit disabled members of the community.

Health Impact Assessments

12.4 A Health Impact Assessment seeks to inform and influence decision-making, ensuring that health impacts, and the distribution of those impacts, are considered as part of the planning policy process. They provide a mechanism to understand more broadly how a wider range of economic, environmental and social factors can combine to affect a development.

12.5 The Position Statement: Health Impact Assessments (Hertfordshire County Council, 2019) sets out guidance for how a Health Impact Assessment should be undertaken. It seeks to facilitate higher quality development of schemes of 100 or more residential units. This can be applied flexibly depending on the nature of a development proposal. Following a staged methodology from when a scheme is designed, through to construction and occupation, a clear brief is produced from the screening and scoping stages to determine the type of Health Impact Assessment that may be required. The two types of Health Impact Assessment are:

  • Rapid Assessment for simpler proposals; 
  • In-depth Health Impact Assessment for more complicated or larger proposals.

12.6 Large development proposals can benefit from undertaking an objective Health Impact Assessment, which is used to inform the design of a scheme to improve its design and increase the likelihood of gaining planning approval, as they summarise many of the issues set out in policies in the Local Plan. In-depth Health Impact Assessments will be supported on large-scale development proposals, however, all major proposals are encouraged to consider undertaking a Rapid Health Impact Assessment, as a minimum, to support their planning application.

Policy HC12.2: Health Impact Assessments

Health Impact Assessments are required for proposals that may have an adverse impact on the immediate area and affect people living in the development and close by. More specifically, Health Impacts Assessments should be provided as part of a planning application submitted for the following types of applications:

  1. Major residential proposals of 100 units or more;
  2. Major transport infrastructure improvements, including major new roads or major new junctions, existing rail networks, rail stations and transport interchange areas and the proposed Mass Transit System along the former Croxley Rail link; and
  3. Any other locally or nationally significant infrastructure project.

Where a Health Impact Assessment has identified an issue that may have a significant adverse impact, the applicant should set out how this has been addressed and mitigated as part of the proposal.

Cultural and community facilities

12.7 Facilities that provide opportunities for leisure, recreation, sport and tourism are vital to our physical and mental health, and can be a key element of the overall quality of life. Such facilities need to be close to where people live to reduce the need to travel, and be in the heart of the community, a social role often filled by uses such as public houses.

12.8 Built cultural or community facilities can include education and health facilities, public houses, local places of worship, community centres, public halls, leisure and sports centres, or arts buildings. Other types of buildings might also function as community facilities where they meet the social, leisure, cultural and religious needs of Watford's diverse communities. Such facilities can be listed as 'assets of community value' where they are of particular significance to the local community and this will form a key consideration in determining an application.

12.9 This policy provides protection for existing community facilities that play an important role in delivering a place where people want to live. Where major new development is proposed, or where facilities are lost as part of redevelopment proposals, the Council will seek the provision of new or replacement facilities where there is an identified demand. New community uses will generally be supported where the use has a clear benefit to the local community. Where possible, these are encouraged, in or near to, Local Centres, in order to reduce trips.

12.10 Proposals that result in the loss of a community facility must demonstrate that the facility is no longer needed and that no other community uses could make use of the site or facility. This should include evidence of consultation with the local community and community infrastructure providers, marketing and an analysis of local provision.

Policy HC12.3: Built Cultural and Community Facilities

Proposals for new, extended or improved cultural and community uses that address a demonstrated demand from the local community will be supported. Such uses should be located within sustainable, accessible locations close to the identified need and as a complementary use within, or close to, an identified Local Centre. Facilities that are proposed in isolated locations or that conflict with existing uses nearby will not be permitted.

The loss of existing community and cultural venues will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. The facility is no longer needed and there is no need for an alternative community or cultural use on that site; or
  2. The community or cultural uses can be re-provided of a higher quality in an alternative location or manner that is equally accessible to the community.

Development within the curtilage of existing community facilities should demonstrate that the continued operation of these facilities is not compromised.

To take part in these consultations, you will first need to register as a user by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. Once you have registered, select a document, then comments can be given by clicking on the pen icon and writing in the form that appears. For further assistance please read our help guide.
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