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What we say about… The built environment

Air pollution and climate change · Housing · Planning · Position statements · Work and health | October 16, 2023

Our key messages

  • The built environment (including homes, transport, places of education and places of work and leisure) is a fundamental determinant of health and DsPH play an important role in working with planning, housing and homelessness teams in local areas to deliver healthier spaces and places.


  • Public health should be placed at the centre of spatial planning and housing policies.


  • Homes should be safe, affordable, accessible, not overcrowded, ventilated and of high quality, adhering to the Healthy Homes Principles.


  • Measures should be in place to ensure that the built environment is low-carbon, energy and water efficient, and climate resilient.

Our national recommendations

  • The Government should ensure that local public health authorities have the funding and power to influence planning and housing policies. Health Impact Assessments should be carried out so that considerations of health and disparities can inform local planning.


  • Governments across the UK should ensure that planning decisions will not disadvantage certain population groups or geographical areas over others.


  • Governments across the UK should tackle the social determinants of health and build wellbeing into policy decision making.


  • Governments across the UK should ensure that there is sufficient, affordable housing that can cater to the needs of all populations and measures should also be in place to tackle homelessness.


  • England, Scotland and Northern Ireland should consider the introduction of a more stringent approach such as the Rent Smart Wales scheme to raise standards in the private rented sector.


  • New homes, school and work buildings should be built to be low-carbon, energy and water efficient, and climate resilient.


  • More research is needed on effective interventions to address the impact of poor indoor air quality. Ventilation in all settings should follow appropriate standards.

Our local recommendations

  • Public health and anchor institutions should provide system leadership on issues that affect health and wellbeing and facilitate place-based working on wider determinants of health.


  • Local areas should take a holistic, joined-up approach in tackling poor conditions in the private rented and social housing sector and consider introducing discretionary licensing schemes to improve standards.


  • Planning teams should work proactively with public health teams to design healthier homes and places, making use of tools such as Health Impact Assessments and the Scottish Place Standard for new developments; and learning from initiatives like Healthy New Towns.


  • Local housing associations should fully understand the health and wellbeing needs of their tenants and work with public health teams in order to put in place a Making Every Contact Count approach (or similar in devolved administrations).


  • As healthier housing can prevent hospital admissions and result in smoother discharges, providing healthy and appropriate housing should be one of the priorities of local ICSs in England. In Scotland, the Local Housing Plans and Housing Contribution Statements for all Health and Social Care partnerships are key drivers for change.
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