Reuniting Planning and Health

Healthy Cities 21st Century

Developing evidence-based policies

This section is designed to help public health practitioners and planners think about relevant policies for their area, based on existing evidence. The information below is structured around public health priorities that are influenced by the built environment, which are:

  • Increase physical activity
  • Prevent obesity
  • Reduce health inequalities
  • Improve mental health and wellbeing
  • Tackle health impacts of climate change.

 For each of these the resource:

  • identifies suggestions for evidence-based planning policies that can help to meet the public health priority 
  • includes examples of policies from English local authorities to illustrate how these can be adopted in practice, using local evidence
  • includes links to documents/projects that illustrate what implementation could look like on the ground.

The policy examples come from England, where the driver for developing health policies in local plans is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance. The NPPF has a whole section on planning for healthier communities. Note that the NPPF and PPG are relatively new documents (2013 and 2014 respectively) and so it is too early to evaluate the policies set out here for effectiveness, although they have been adopted through an examination process (unless otherwise stated).

Some councils have developed overarching supplementary planning documents – which are intended to support adopted local plan policies – on healthy communities. Examples include:

The weight given to these policies will depend on the context of the local planning authority – in general, policies in a local plan carry more weight than those in an SPD. However, they are a very useful place to start for understanding the range of policies that planners can consider adopting.