A new report by government agency Public Health England (PHE) has found that more needs to be done to better integrate health outcomes into local plans and to improve engagement between councils' planning and public health teams.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires planners to promote healthy communities, use evidence to assess health and wellbeing needs and work with public health leads and organisations.
When the Vale of the White Horse Local Plan was being examined, we asked why the NHS hadn’t been involved in the planning for more than 22,000 new homes and were told that they had been asked but hadn’t contributed.
The NHS seems to be re-organised about every two years with the latest re-organisation being the introduction of BOB ICS (Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Integrated Care System).
This seems to be more about changing roles in the management of our health services and less about what is required to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population.
When thousands of new homes were approved around OX12, no thought was given for developer funding of improvements to the Health Centre or our Community Hospital or the ability to walk or cycle to work.
There were, of course, plans for a new Leisure Centre but while millions of pounds have been spent on improving the White Horse Leisure Centre, Outdoor Swimming Pool and other facilities in Abingdon, the plans for improvements in OX12 are being quietly dropped.
In February the District Council agreed to develop a health and wellbeing strategy for the Vale of White Horse to improve the health and wellbeing of its communities, designing healthy places which link healthy living and the built and natural environment.
According to the PHE, qualities, such as a walkable environment free from pollution, and availability of well-maintained green spaces, can promote physical activity and wellbeing. Healthy homes with adequate space for living and a healthier food environment should be integrated into the design of new developments and the spatial planning system.
Of course this is too late for the 5,000 homes which have already received planning permission around Wantage and Grove - and we still have a shortage of useable green space.
The green spaces on these developments will be maintained by private management companies on a 125 year lease from the land owners using the Estate Rent Charge paid by the residents. This will be totally outside the councils’ control.