The Royal Town Planning Institute(RTPI) Scotland has welcomed the establishment of a national public health body for Scotland, but urges more explicit connections with the planning system so that place-making can play a more preventative role in creating healthier communities.
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A public health body for Scotland can make a real difference if it explicitly recognises the connection between health and planning and puts in the right arrangements and clear remits to ensure it can use planning to bring more upstream, preventative interventions in the long term. The Institute says ‘town planning should be seen as a crucial preventative investment to drive transformative change and secure a healthier built environment’, but as it stands, the consultation document for Public Health Scotland (PHS) falls short of grasping this potential.
Craig McLaren, RTPI Scotland Director, said: ‘There is mounting evidence to show well planned places promote healthy behaviours, mental and physical wellbeing, and greater equity in health. Planning performs the critical function of aligning transport initiatives, housing strategies and economic development – all of which have major impact on health outcomes. It is a no brainer. A public health body for Scotland can make a real difference if it explicitly recognises the connection between health and planning and puts in the right arrangements to ensure it can use planning to bring more upstream, preventative interventions in the long term.’
The newly passed Planning (Bill) Scotland contains many provisions which further embed public health in the planning system, and PHS should work with stakeholders to produce the necessary guidance and delivery, including the creation of regulation to assess the health effects of national or major developments, RTPI Scotland says. PHS should support the Scottish Government to draw up guidance for the roles of Chief Planning Officer for each local authority and a national planning improvement co-ordinator. Provisions for both of these posts are enshrined in the new Planning Bill.
The remit of PHS should also be better aligned with Local Place Plans and the range of regional strategies and plans including Regional Spatial Strategies, City-region deals, the Infrastructure Investment Plan and Regional Transport Partnerships, RTPI Scotland says. Given the critical impact of long-term place-making on public health, RTPI Scotland would wish to see an individual on the board with clear ties to the built environment sector.