The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27th March 2012 and sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.

“Local planning authorities should work with public health leads and health organisations to understand and take account of the health status and needs of the local population (such as for sports, recreation and places of worship), including expected future changes, and any information about relevant barriers to improving health and well-being.”

NPPF, 2012

The NPPF states that the purpose of planning is to “contribute to the achievement of sustainable development” (paragraph 6). It quotes the five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development set out in the UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future:

  1. living within the planet’s environmental limits;
  2. ensuring a strong, healthy and just society;
  3. achieving a sustainable economy;
  4. promoting good governance; and
  5. using sound science responsibly.

Similarly the NPPF (paragraph 7) highlights the economic, social and environmental dimensions on sustainable development and the roles that planning has to play in each dimension. The “social role” of planning involves:

supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being

Health is intrinsic to sustainable development and should be a key focus of planning. This is underlined by the inclusion of health as one of the twelve “core planning principles” defined in the NPPF (paragraph 17):

take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all, and deliver sufficient community and cultural facilities and services to meet local needs.

Promoting healthy communities: “The planning system can play an important role in facilitating social interaction and creating healthy, inclusive communities. Local planning authorities should create a shared vision with communities of the residential environment and facilities they wish to see.”

Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change: “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… Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

Promoting sustainable transport: “Transport policies have an important role to play in facilitating sustainable development but also in contributing to wider sustainability and health objectives”.

Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes: Local authorities should “…deliver a wide choice of high quality homes, widen opportunities for home ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities”.

Conserving and enhancing the natural environment: “The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by: protecting and enhancing valued landscapes… recognising the wider benefits of ecosystem services; minimising impacts on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity where possible… [and addressing] soil, air, water or noise pollution”