CS26: Supporting Healthy Living and the Provision of Health Care Facilities

CS26: Supporting Healthy Living and the Provision of Health Care Facilities

The planning process will support programmes and strategies which increase and improve health services throughout the district, promote healthier lifestyles and aim to reduce health inequalities. This will be achieved through:

1) Requiring Health Impact Assessments (HIA) on all large scale developments in the district;

2) Joint working with health providers to help deliver a district-wide network of health facilities which are located within towns or service villages and are easily accessible by sustainable modes of transport or travel. Where the local provision of health services is insufficient to support a increased population arising from large scale new residential development additional health facilities will be sought to meet any identified shortfall;

3) Working with relevant stakeholders to reduce geographical inequalities in health within the district;

4) Encouraging development that promotes active living through creating places that are easily accessible, attractive and safe to move around by walking or cycling;

5) Promoting healthy lifestyles by addressing existing deficiencies in provision, and aiming to improve the quality and quantity of sports facilities, playing pitches and children's play spaces throughout the district and access to them;

6) Encouraging development which incorporates, or is within walking distance, from attractive, usable green public open space and contributes to enhancing the green infrastructure network;

7) Recognising and safeguarding the role of allotments, small scale agriculture and farmers' markets in providing access to healthy, affordable, locally produced food options.

This policy contributes towards achieving Priority Objectives 4 and 8.

Background

Planning policy plays an important role in creating healthy communities from the design and provision of infrastructure which supports healthy lifestyles through to the need to provide access to decent housing, sport facilities, recreation, cultural and community facilities, and health care facilities.

There is significant evidence that the quality of the environment people live in greatly influences people's physical and mental health and factors such as access to open space, the ability to lead an active lifestyle, access to health care facilities, community cohesion through the provision of facilities and services within neighbourhoods and good quality housing all impact on people's health and well-being and can all be influenced through planning policy.

Over the next 20 years North Somerset is projected to have a population increase of 32.3% with 65,000 additional residents taking the total population for the district to 266,400 by 2026. The North Somerset Community Strategy identifies a number of challenges the district faces with regard to health such as an increasing number of frail and vulnerable older people with health problems.

Within North Somerset there is a widening gap in life expectancy between people living in the most deprived areas and those in the most affluent. The life expectancy gap between the fifth most deprived and those least deprived is 7.8 years for males and 5.9 for females[1]. Some areas in North Somerset have the lowest life expectancy in the South West. The determinants of health are closely linked to factors such as ability to earn a reasonable wage, access to good quality housing, access to open space, an active lifestyle, healthy food, access to cultural and community facilities, and easy access to health care facilities. Therefore, addressing health inequalities in the district requires a comprehensive approach working with a variety of organisations and departments such as health providers, education, and housing. Equally, environmental factors, the design of buildings and places, and the quality and maintenance of the public realm are all recognised as factors which can have significant influences on health.

The Core Strategy approach

Health Impact Assessments are an important tool used to assess how development proposals will contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of the local population and end users of the scheme. Public authorities and developers alike increasingly need to consider how policies, strategies or developments will impact on health and health inequalities. A Health Impact Assessment can identify the potential health gains and potential risks to health and help to identify additional measures to reduce or avoid these risks. This policy requires Health Impact Assessments to be submitted with applications for all major development within the district.

Designing places which are attractive and easy to walk or cycle around, where facilities and services are located close together and there is convenient access to open spaces and leisure/recreational facilities will support the health agenda objectives. Other policies set out the importance of mixed use developments and the importance of urban design on creating attractive, safe and inviting places and spaces.

Other aspects such as the role of allotments can also be valuable in terms of enabling people to grow their own food, but also involving exercise, fresh air and frequent interaction with the natural environment which has proven to be positive for mental well-being. Demand for allotments is variable over time but with rising food prices, increased awareness over food quality and reducing food miles coupled with smaller gardens and increased leisure time, demand is likely to remain stable or even increase over the plan period.

Community supported agriculture systems also to help support local producers and create a much stronger link between customers and their food, particularly in deprived areas where cost continues to be a significant or perceived barrier to buying fresh produce.

How and where the policy will be delivered

New health facilities will primarily be delivered in areas of housing growth to meet the needs of new communities. New health facilities will also be provided in towns and service villages where there is a proven deficit in such a service and within Weston-super-Mare to meet the needs of the growing population of the town. Where appropriate, sites will be identified through the Site Allocations Development Plan Document.

Weston Hospital

Partnership working between North Somerset Council, North Somerset Primary Care Trust and other health care service providers will ensure that appropriate health facilities are provided in the best locations. Equally, the development control process will ensure that any new developments meet the necessary requirements in terms of provision of green infrastructure, access to open space, and the requirement for Health Impact Assessments to be submitted with large scale applications will ensure that health issues are given due consideration at the planning application stage.

Alternative options and contingency planning

There is a significant drive nationally and regionally for strategic policies to have consideration of the impact they have on levels of physical activity and other aspects of health, and to include polices which ensure that the health agenda is at the heart of policy and decision-making. Not to include a policy relating to planning for healthy communities would be short-sighted and fail to capitalise on the spatial role the Core Strategy has to make a positive contribution towards improving the health of residents in North Somerset.

Monitoring and review

The number of facilities delivered, and Health Impact Assessments provided on large scale applications will be monitored.

1. North Somerset Health Profile 2007. [back]