Healthy Homes Bill will build better places for walking

canal walk

When was the last time you left your home to go for a walk? Whatever the purpose of your journey – to enjoy fresh air and exercise, to visit local shops, to collect children from school – the chances are that you encountered obstacles that made your walk more difficult or unpleasant. Walking routes are often severed by busy, polluted and dangerous roads; pavements are too narrow; streets have no natural features or shade; there may be no local parks to visit or safe ways to reach the wider, open greenspaces on urban fringes.

We live in towns and cities that have been designed over many decades to meet the needs of car traffic, rather than those of people - so much so that the everyday obstacles we encounter on our daily journeys are enough to put some people off walking. Yet many people still choose to walk because of the enormous benefits it provides. Walking improves physical health, encourages social interaction, community cohesion, engagement with nature and is often the quickest and cheapest way of getting around. Both central and local government are promoting walking more than ever before as a means to alleviate pressures on public transport, to avoid traffic congestion and to help everyone maintain their physical and mental health. And a lot of people just really enjoy it.

But the physical barriers that prevent or discourage walking remain. How can we find ways to shape the fabric of our towns and cities, so that they encourage walking? We think the answer lies in the Healthy Homes Bill. The Ramblers are pleased to support the Town and Country Planning Association’s campaign calling for new legislation that would require all new homes and neighbourhoods to be of decent quality – with good walking access to shops, services and local green space - and effectively outlaw developments which undermine residents’ health and wellbeing.

The Healthy Homes Bill sets out minimum quality standards that would create a set of enforceable standards, guaranteeing that all new homes would be within walkable neighbourhoods and have access to green space. All government departments would be required to have regard to the principles when making policy, as would all public authorities that have responsibilities relating to planning and the delivery of housing. 

With the recent publication of the planning white paper, the government has started a new national conversation about the planning system, one which appears largely focussed on the question of how the biggest number of homes can be delivered in the shortest possible time. What is missing is a broader conversation about the type of places we want to build to enable everyone to live happier, healthier and more active lives.

The Healthy Homes Bill would put place quality at the heart of the planning system and provide a solid foundation for the walkable, green, healthy and sustainable towns and cities of the future. In the face of the multiple crises we face – pandemics, climate change, inactivity, air pollution – we simply can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. The case for the Healthy Homes Bill has never been stronger.

For more information on the campaign, please visit https://www.tcpa.org.uk/healthy-homes-act or contact Jack Dangerfield at jack.dangerfield@tcpa.org.uk

Healthy Homes Act