While the socio-economic context in which the first Garden Cities were created in the early 20th century was different to that prevailing in the early 21st century, the basic need for a decent quality of life and good living environments transcends time and culture. In recent times, health inequalities within our communities have widened, and this gap is manifested in the quality of the built environment.

Research has indicated that if health and wellbeing are properly considered and addressed through design early in the planning and development process, as part of a wider placemaking approach, there is an opportunity to harness increased development value of between 5% and 50%. This makes a strong business case for fully addressing questions of health and wellbeing within the planning and development process. Evidence has shown that the benefits to both the developer and wider society over the long term will outweigh costs.

Writing in the TCPA pamphlet Health and Garden Cities, published in 1938, Dr Norman Macfadyen, an early supporter of the Garden City model and Letchworth’s first resident doctor and its first medical officer of health, argued that the ‘inevitable strain of life can be eased by good housing conditions, good working conditions, good opportunity for the enjoyment of leisure, freedom for proper rest, with the proper opportunity for fresh food’.

This is the starting point for promoting health and wellbeing in the populations of new large-scale developments. The ideas set out in the Practical Guide will not necessarily be new to planners and developers, but they do take on an explicit public health perspective. In order to remain true to the Garden City principles, those undertaking new developments should consider the following elements of good place-making in a coherent way, based on local needs and demographic profiles and informed by an up-to-date local health evidence base:

  • movement and access;
  • open spaces, play, and recreation;
  • the food environment;
  • buildings;
  • neighbourhood spaces and infrastructure; and the local economy.

This Practical Guide also suggests tools and mechanisms for delivery and implementation which can be adopted by local authorities and delivery partners, including:

  • collaboration, co-operation, and sustained local planning for health capacity;
  • health-focused strategies, plans, and policies;
  • the adoption of strategic sites for housing and employment development opportunities in health-promoting locations;
  • an evidence-informed and health-proofing masterplans and monitoring process;
  • systematic consideration of health impacts in assessments;
  • consistency of approach in identifying local health and care infrastructure needs; and
  • a place-based approach to securing inward capital and revenue investment.

Download the guide here.

Download the annexes to the guide here.