New Local Plan should address ‘epidemic of avoidable illness’ 


Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Uttlesford District Council

People’s health is at stake when creating the new Local Plan, an Uttlesford District Council meeting heard.  

The warning was given by Julia Thrift, director of healthy placemaking at the Town and Country Planning Association. 

She said the new Local Plan should address an ongoing epidemic of ‘avoidable illness’, which can reduce NHS costs.

She explained how a lot of “underlying health conditions” are caused by loneliness, which is as bad as smoking health for people of all ages, according to research.

Ms Thrift said creating places where people could bump into their neighbours and socialise should be a priority, and it’s also important to think about where cultural activities and events can happen across towns and villages. 

She said being overweight or obese is very common and children who have weight problems are “likely to have health problems for the rest of their lives”. Her advice is to create places across Uttlesford’s towns and villages where healthy food is easily available. Small places where people could grow vegetables could also help get communities together, and children to see fresh food is not just from a supermarket plastic bag. 

She said the new Local Plan can improve everyone’s physical and mental health by encouraging active travel. She said if physical activity was a medicine, it would be seen as a ‘miracle cure’.  

She said: “If we can help people walk or cycle, then we can build in that every day physical activity in a way that is easy to do without even noticing.  

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“It might be in rural areas that people do need to travel by car or by bus to get to the next town, but if you can make sure than towns and villages have a range of different things in them, that can help people know that they only have to make one journey. 

“When they get there, could it be a pleasant place to walk around? Could you bump into people and have a chat?” 

She said the provision of good quality, local parks and green spaces with trees to cool down the areas, local jobs, and a good built and natural environment are important things to consider. In the countryside, public footpaths should give all users confidence.  

The provision of good quality, safe housing with enough space and gardens was also highlighted. 

She said a good amount of benches and public toilets, and a little garden where somebody could sit quietly should also be considered.