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Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Economic Development | Blog

Lockdown has highlighted that the UK housing crisis isn’t purely about quantity, it’s also about quality. A form of revolution is needed, with developers adding residents’ wellbeing to their priority lists, as well as speed.

Luckily, the recent launch of ‘Building for a Healthy Life’ (BHL) could be the answer.

Read the Building for a Healthier life toolkit publication here.

The impact of unsuitable housing

Well-lit private spaces and nearby green areas are no longer added extras, they are necessities. For the many people who live in urban areas with limited access to these, the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, having stopped them from being able to escape their four walls.

Space saving is often the main focus for city developments, ensuring maximum capacity in a minimal area. However, this approach doesn’t consider wellbeing and instead relies on residents being able to leave to meet their wider basic needs.

This one-size-fits all approach to the housing crisis is not an effective solution, and it’s time to try something new.

What is Building for a Healthier Life (BHL)?

Backed by Homes England, BHL has been created to replace ‘Building for Life 12’ (Bfl 12). Simply put, the goal of these new guidelines is to encourage housing developers to weave health and wellbeing into their plans.

BHL’s predecessor, BfL 12, was made up of 12 set questions designed to help assess the quality of housing schemes. Aspects such as facilities, tenure types and private spaces were covered, but many used it as a quick tick-box system, rather than truly considering how they could improve their sites.

However, BHL appears to have moved away from this question and answer process.

‘How-to’ guides for healthy spaces

The purpose of BHL is for architects and planners to submit evidence that shows exactly how wellbeing elements are to be implemented.

By providing visual aids that act as “how to” guides for healthy spaces, BHL enables developers to pick and choose the design cues that they feel would benefit their own housing schemes.

Wellbeing considerations

There is one thing that BHL has taken from BfL 12, and that is the idea of having 12 main considerations for developers. These have been split into three categories:

  • Integrated neighbourhoods;
  • Distinctive places; and
  • Streets for all.

Individual elements include ‘homes for everyone’, ‘well defined streets and spaces’ and ‘green and blue infrastructure’.

Each element should be taken in context with the development, rather than followed as a checklist, to ensure the result will fully benefit all residents.

Building long-term housing is essential

In future, decision makers must ensure that wellbeing considerations are included in development plans wherever possible. Although speed is still necessary to tackle the housing crisis, homes built for the long-term must become part of the solution. Hopefully, BHL and the pandemic will lead to more developers building with health in mind.

Helping you to achieve the best outcome

If you’re in the early stages of a development, we can help you to utilise the toolkit. Our team of specialist town and country planners will guide you through the process and work alongside you to demonstrate to the decision-maker why your scheme has been designed in a specific manner.

Contact us

For advice and support on how you can use BHL to your advantage, or any other planning query, contact Sachin Parmar  and Brian Mullin in our planning consultancy team Marrons Planning.

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Published: 27th August 2020
Area: Development Strategy

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Marrons is a multi-service development consultancy backed by the experience of working for local authorities, extensive market intel and connections across the industry - from planning offices and private landowners to housebuilders and retailers.

With expertise in Planning, Architecture, Design, Heritage and Economic Development, you can trust us to lead, protect and enhance the value of your land or building assets ensuring we turn your plans into reality.

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