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Building a healthier London

4th December 2017

The Mayor’s London Plan released this week clearly identifies health and housing as two of the biggest challenges facing the city. This won’t come as a surprise to any Londoner. My rented studio flat costs as much as a family home in pretty much any other area of the country and I often question whether the health benefits of cycling to work are negated by my daily dose of nitrogen dioxide*.

What is new is the Mayor’s focus on addressing these problems together. He talks of creating genuinely affordable homes and a greener, more inclusive city that will improve Londoners’ health and well-being.

…what we need is growth that allows us to build thousands of genuinely affordable homes at the same time as creating a more inclusive, greener and safer city that supports the health and wellbeing of all Londoners.


Grayling regularly works with organisations to deliver public engagement to support both the planning process for physical development and to establish how NHS services can be delivered more effectively. It makes sense to start thinking about these two challenges concurrently. The two are intrinsically linked – health is consistently raised when new building projects are being planned; similarly the built environment and transport have a key role to play in delivering better healthcare.  

The NHS have also spotted the opportunity. They are working with ten housing developments across England to shape the health of communities, and to rethink how health and care services can be delivered. The Healthy New Towns programme aims to unite public health, NHS providers and commissioners, planning and housing development to plan and build healthier places. Get this right and the potential impact is huge; the London Healthy New Town, L&Q led Barking Riverside will deliver 10,800 new homes more than 50% of which will be affordable. If every household was even 20% more active and healthier, this could have huge cost savings for the NHS.

While initiatives like these are to be commended, in order to deliver Sadiq’s vision for a London that supports our health and wellbeing, buy-in and involvement from all elements of the community is needed. It needs to become standard practice for property and infrastructure organisations to engage local NHS organisations and bodies like UK Active to see how activity can be ‘built in’ and NHS organisations need to involve local developers to see how they can play their part in addressing the public health challenge.

Much can also be achieved with the existing infrastructure. We at Grayling have recently been working with TfL to deliver a series of seminars as part of their STARS schools accreditation scheme which inspires young Londoners to think differently about travel and its impact on their health, wellbeing and the environment. This programme is a great example of how working with the community can unlock health benefits. To date STARS schools' pupils, parents/carers and staff have replaced over 13 million miles of car journeys with active travel.

The Mayor puts forward an enticing vision for future London – for it to become a reality collaboration, innovation and involvement from every element of the community is needed.

* Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), is pollutant that inflames the lungs, stunting their growth and increasing the risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancer. Across the country, the government estimates 23,500 people die prematurely from NO2 pollution.


Rikki Butler

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