This latest research from Design Council and Social Change UK notes that healthy placemaking sits on the periphery of UK housing, public health and placemaking policy. It continues to be seen as a cost to local development rather than an investment, and when considered alongside the plethora of local planning priorities and frameworks it often gets overlooked. Investment in the future of our towns, cities and villages must have a focus on healthy places to deliver sustainable communities that boost local economic growth and improve people’s lives through reducing preventable disease.

“With ever-increasing pressures on the NHS to fight preventable health issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, we need to consider new ways to fight this growing health epidemic. As a recognised leader within the architecture and built environment sector, we want to fully understand what stops those who design and build the places that we live and work in making us healthier and happier. Our latest research makes clear that, despite the evidence, healthy placemaking is often side-lined and seen as a cost. This has to change if we are to tackle the high levels of physical inactivity that is costing the country an estimated £7.4 billion each year” said Design Council CEO, Sarah Weir OBE.
Social Change UK, the organisation that carried out the research, believes some of our toughest societal issues can be solved by healthy placemaking. Kelly Hunstone, Chief Executive said: “After years of working on the ground within local communities we believe a lot of health and social issues can be solved by designing healthier neighbourhoods. People want to live in comfortable, breathable homes that make them feel safe and secure. They want access to green spaces and cycle paths and the kind of environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle and happier life. This should be the right of every one – and not the few – and I urge our decision makers – our politicians, our planners and anyone involved in the design and construction of our villages, towns and cities to put healthy placemaking top of the agenda”.

Design Councils recommendations for developing healthy places are:

  • Physical activity: to increase walkability in buildings and neighbourhoods and encourage healthy modes of transport
  • Healthy food: to improve access to healthier foods
  • Social contact: to design well-connected housing and neighbourhoods that provide access to facilities and amenities to reduce social isolation and loneliness
  • Contact with nature: to provide access to the natural environment, including parks
  • Pollution: reducing exposure to air and noise pollution


Making change happen

Healthy placemaking enables a healthier and happier population, improves our standards of living, reduces preventable disease, and has the potential to alleviate pressure on health and social care services. Change requires action at all levels of people working in the built environment. To achieve this, we recommend:

Government: the government must remain committed to developing healthy places, making sure it runs throughout the revised National Planning Policy Framework

Local Government (including combined authorities): local authorities should embed healthy placemaking across all local and neighbourhood plans with health seen as intrinsic to economic and social development priorities

Practitioners: built environment practitioners and developers should promote and demonstrate a firm commitment to healthy placemaking. Practitioners should work with key bodies from across the sector to promote the need for healthy placemaking presenting a stronger case for well-designed places which support the health and wellbeing of communities


For further information on the research report, as well as any media related enquiries please, contact:

Abid Gangat

Design Council – Media and Communications Manager


Ph: 07833 182 159

About Design Council

The Design Council exists to fulfil our purpose to make life better by design. We are an independent charity and the Government’s advisor on design. Our vision is a world where the role and value of design is recognised as a fundamental creator of value, so enabling better quality, happier, healthier and safer lives for all. We are the impartial champion, the independent facilitator of partnerships and the amplifier of issues to achieve our mission. We are committed to improving people’s lives, focused on effectiveness and collaborative, working in partnership with others. Through the power of design, we make better places, better products, better processes and better performances happen for people, through Government, business, entrepreneurs, schools, universities, non-profit organisations and design communities

About Social Change UK

Social Change UK is a leading behaviour change agency in the UK. Set up in 2010, the Lincoln based agency carries out social research to find out more about people and uncover insights to solve society’s toughest issues. They use data and research to design and deliver change campaigns that inspire people to think and act.

Interview requests for Social Change UK via Abid Gangat.