A budget for healthy places

In announcing the Spring Budget today, the Chancellor asked whether the next generation will be able to get on the housing ladder and declared that it is the Government’s job to make sure that they do.

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The Government has recognised that we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with England experiencing some of the highest house price inflation and worst affordability in the developed economies. Their initial response to this crisis – essentially, to build more homes over the longer term, primarily through changes to the planning system - was set out recently in the Housing White Paper.

There are a number of proposals to welcome in the White Paper, including the retention of protections for Green Belt land; additional funding for Neighbourhood Planning; increased resources for local authority planning departments; and more transparency around land ownership.

Whilst there is a widely acknowledged demand for new homes, there is also a pressing need for healthy places to live; places that are designed to encourage people to go about their everyday lives on foot through the provision of safe, attractive green routes and spaces, well connected to public transport, shops, schools and other amenities as well as the wider community.

The built environment has a huge role to play in meeting the challenges of our increasingly urban, sedentary and isolated society. There is a wealth of evidence to show that cities and towns with high-quality, well connected, accessible networks of paths and spaces that are rich in natural features encourage walking and in so doing improve public health, boost local economies and help create safer, happier, more cohesive communities.

How do we provide not only houses but healthy communities?

Leadership, at both national and local government levels, is needed to ensure that the potential of walking to improve the health, social and economic fabric of communities is championed in plans and strategies and that making places more ‘walkable’ is a key outcome from any new development.

The next generation will thank us if we do.