The health focused edition to Building for Life 12 in 2020 was a timely initiative rebooting an existing standard to be more assertive in promoting the generation of healthier places.

Written in partnership with Homes England and the NHS it draws on Putting Health into Place – NHS research into the ‘how to’ of healthy placemaking. This identified the negative impact on physical and mental wellbeing of poorly designed places and the need for places to support healthy play, leisure and active travel. As the national design standard BfL12 is already widely used and cited in Local Plans and this revision can easily be substituted. The authors also provide a handy chart cross referencing Building for a Healthy Life to the NPPF and the National Design Guide.

Building for a Healthy Life can be used as a discussion tool. Its twelve points can be used for communities, authorities and developers to engage with a proposal and identify what works well and what still needs thought. This new edition places more emphasis on place to place connectivity and on active travel so that places are designed to enable everyday activity. The principle of Healthy Streets emphasises sharing available space fairly – to create wider pavements and more protected cycleways. Car parking becomes cycle and car parking. The consideration of public space gives greater importance to the integration of nature and the quality of interfaces between private homes and streets is given new focus.

Throughout the new guide clear examples of good practice are given and design issues that have intensified in importance during the Covid 19 emergency. Such as – access for apartments to private gardens and to shared gardens and room for more generous public routes and paths – are flagged.

Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review Ten Years On also drew attention to how poor design is impacting on health equity. In its review of place related actions, it noted the continuing impact of air quality on health especially on deprived communities, the role of unhealthy high streets and poor access to affordable mobility and housing. It also identified how the Government had not met its targets since 2016 for increasing walking to school and doubling cycling rates. To address this the government launched a ‘vision for cycling and walking’ Gear Change and has created a new executive agency Active Travel England to assess progress on delivering active travel.

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