Planning policy ignores wellbeing

Planning policy should put wellbeing at the heart of development with local authorities having the “right and responsibility” to set high wellbeing standards. These are key recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics’ report into wellbeing, published this week.

The report is the result of a year-long inquiry exploring how wellbeing evidence can be translated into policy in the four areas of: labour markets, planning and transport, mindfulness in health and education, and arts and culture.

Evidence gathered during the inquiry indicated that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has given significant weight to the pursuit of economic growth, but paid insufficient attention to the improvement of community wellbeing. “If the planning system is to truly rediscover an ambition to promote wellbeing, local authorities must be given the confidence to set high wellbeing standards,” the report concludes.

At a national level, the report says that transport and planning policy should be integrated into a single department with the shared aim of promoting accessibility, rather than just mobility.

It calls for planning practice guidance to set out how wellbeing can guide local plans and specific planning decisions, including by:

  • ensuring that town centres are sociable and inclusive spaces, accessible for all sections of the community
  • planning for an ageing population
  • making it easier to access jobs and services by cycling and walking. It notes that encouraging urban residents to take up walking or cycling could save the NHS £675m a year
  • prioritising the provision of green space to maximise wellbeing.

The report, Wellbeing in four policy areas, also calls on the government to publish a wellbeing strategy and for new policy to be routinely assessed for its impact on wellbeing.

The parliamentary group chair, MP David Lammy said on the launch of the report, “This report outlines in practical terms what action the government can take to increase wellbeing and shift focus onto the need to improve the quality of life in this country.”

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