Could North Somerset become healthier – all thanks to housing policy?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 29 January 2017

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Improved bus routes, more green spaces and new paths and cycle routes are just some of the ways North Somerset Council is ensuring new development in the area does not damage people’s health.

The council has revealed how it mitigated the effects of new development after a recently-published report claimed living near to a busy road could increase the risk of developing dementia.

Although the council refuted the report’s suggestion, it did say public health implications were considered during its planning process and it added financial contributions from developers – known as section 106 (s106) payments – could be inadvertently used to reduce the risk of health problems caused by living in an urban environment.

A council spokesman said: “It would be difficult to directly attribute living near a road to disease prevalence, as most diseases have many factors relating to their cause, such as ageing, genetics or other risk factors.

“However, it is becoming clear that air pollution is an independent risk factor for some diseases and will need to be considered carefully in areas where pollution is high.

“There are many measures that are applied to planning applications to encourage healthy lifestyles and sustainable travel. While we’re not aware of any s106 obligations that have been placed on applications to directly address pollution risks, many of the other s106 requirements will address these indirectly.

“At the Weston Villages (airfield and Parklands) development, some of these obligations have included ensuring provision of local facilities within 400 metres of housing, new foot and cycle paths and improvements to existing ones, contributions to bus services and integrated green infrastructure throughout the sites.”

North Somerset’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for commissioning the area’s health services, said the link between busy roads and dementia could not be proven in North Somerset.

However, its chief clinical officer Dr Mary Backhouse said the risk of contracting many diseases – including dementia – could be improved by simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Backhouse added: “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, not drinking too much alcohol, and quitting smoking.”

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