New healthy homes design guidance for England has just been published. This is timely in light of our blog yesterday about making our town centres more attractive places to live and work. The new guidelines, Building for a Healthy Life, which are backed by the NHS, aim to encourage healthier lifestyles to be planned into new housing developments and were officially launched this week.
The new design toolkit sets out the priorities for creating healthier communities. These include improved walking, cycling and public transport links, reduced carbon emissions and better air quality. The aim is to ensure that masterplans for new developments should be based on an assessment of local health and care needs, with the creation of integrated neighbourhoods rather than ghettoes of new homes or affordable housing and well-defined public spaces.
The new healthy homes guidelines use the same 12-point structure as Building for Life 12 (the design guidance that has been in place since 2012) with examples of good practice that would give a proposed development a green light and bad practice that would earn a red light from planners. However, the thinking behind Building for a Healthy Life is that it should prompt discussion around good design and planning, rather than simply act as a tick-box scoring system.
We all know there are still too many poorly designed new build schemes around the country. They are easy to spot. They lack character, with cookie-cuttter homes, too little public amenity space and poor access to public transport. If new guidance can help improve the standard of design for new housing by creating well-defined streets and spaces, focus on placemaking and help people get active by walking and cycling more, we are all in favour. But as ever the proof will be whether, in a few years’ time, we start to see new housing that we would all be happy to live in, rather than the bleak, almost identical developments that too often spring up around our towns and cities.