A further reason for health to engage with planning is the ability of planners (working with environmental sustainability specialists) to address climate change mitigation and adaptation:

“Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change, and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.” (National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 93)

The NPPF requires new development to be resilient to severe weather impacts and other risks through the planning process. There is, however, an emerging consensus that preventive interventions are often more cost-effective and certainly less disruptive than a reactive approach and this has already engendered closer working between local planning authorities and Kent Resilience Forum partners. The scale, intensity and duration of severe weather experienced during the autumn and winter of 2013/14 has forced an urgent re-appraisal of the resources, working practices and degree of integration between planners and resilience partners, with relevant NPPF and NPPG guidance identified as integral to ensuring a more resilient future for our county.

Climate change has significant implications for the health and wellbeing of people in Kent and Medway, for health inequalities and for pressures on health services. Key findings from the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) suggest we are likely to experience further changes into the future, and that by 2050:

  • Winters are likely to be warmer by around 2.2°C;
  • Summers are likely to be hotter by around 2.8°C;
  • The hottest summer days could increase by up to 3.7°C;
  • Summer night time temperatures are likely to increase by 3°C;
  • Winter rainfall is likely to increase by 14%;
  • Summer rainfall is likely to decrease by 24%.

We are also likely to experience an increased frequency of severe weather events, including more ‘very hot’ days and more intense rainstorms leading to increased flood risk.

In Kent the areas likely to have the greatest impact on resident’s health are:

  • Flooding (injury, infection, mental health impacts);
  • Mortality and morbidity related to temperature (respiratory and cardiovascular diseases);
  • Food, water and vector borne diseases (increased incidence of infections);
  • Air Quality (covered in later sections – (respiratory and cardiovascular) diseases);
  • Vulnerability of infrastructure and built environment (e.g. extreme events such as droughts and storms may increasingly impact on service delivery).

Full details of the health impacts of each of these issues for Kent are provided in the Sustainability Needs Assessment chapter of the JSNA. The Environment Agency’s Under the Weather toolkit also provides a useful table (p.6) summarising the effects of climate change on health, wellbeing, and the health and social care system.

The most vulnerable groups in Kent and Medway are likely to feel the greatest impacts of climate change as they are least likely to be able to adapt. The elderly are thought to be particularly at risk; the population of Kent aged 65+ and 85+ is predicted to increase significantly over the next 5 to 10 years.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) good practice note Delivering Healthy Communities (2009) identified a significant overlap between planning policies that tackle climate change and those that can improve health; and the Marmot Review: Implications for Spatial Planning (2010) recommended the prioritisation of policies and interventions that both reduce health inequalities and mitigate climate change. Key planning policy areas identified by these documents include:

  • promoting active travel, such as walking and cycling (increases physical activity and reduces carbon emissions);
  • delivering energy efficient homes (reduces poor health from cold and hot homes and reduces carbon emissions);
  • delivering mixed use development and multi-use community buildings (increases physical activity, improves mental wellbeing and reduces carbon emissions);
  • providing good quality parks and open spaces (increases physical activity, improves mental wellbeing and adapts urban areas to a changing climate by reducing flood risk and lowering temperatures);
  • improving the quality of food in local areas (there is anecdotal evidence that local access to healthy foods improves diets).

The Joint Working section provides practical guidance on addressing all of these topics as well as on addressing climate change resilience.