On Thursday 7 April Dr Tim Townshend chaired an event that was jointly the FUSE Quarterly Research Meeting and the 4th in the ESRC funded seminar series entitled Reuniting Planning and Health. In this post he reflects on the day…
Reuniting Planning and Health was the culmination of quite a few months of preparation and though it’s not the first such event I’ve organised it’s always a bit nerve racking on the day. Will all the speakers arrive? Will the participants enjoy themselves? Will lunch be any good?! As it was I needn’t have worried about a thing.
The day kicked off with a great overarching review of the need for planners and health professionals to work more closely together from Laurence Carmichael, Head of WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Environments – showing that while there is a lot of momentum behind the initiative there is much work still to be done. We then went north of the border with a presentation from Etive Currie, Glasgow City Council, who has been working on healthy planning initiatives for many years. Etive’s presentation was full of amusing anecdotes about how local communities are not always initially receptive to such ideas! However there were also lots of really good news stories about individual lives that had been turned around. This was followed by Lee Parry-Williams, Public Health Wales, who gave a very informative overview of progress with HIA in Wales – and also some insights into how political rivalries can stand in the way of real progress!
After a short coffee break, we had three further keynotes, Prof Ashley Cooper, University of Bristol, gave an excellent presentation setting out the complexity of linking children’s activity patterns to the built environment – it clearly demonstrated that for planning to deliver environments that are more supportive to healthy lifestyles, the research behind interventions need to be extremely robust. Lesley Palmer, Chief Architect, Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre, gave a really thought provoking presentation on how to design with dementia in mind – highlighting sufferers’ altered sense of reality – while showing elegant design solutions that could be incorporated into any environment that seeks to be age-friendly. The final presentation came from Gary Young, Director at Farrells, exploring the NHS Healthy Towns Initiative, including some of the initial housing at Bicester, a great talk to end with as it brought together so many key strands.
In the afternoon there were four interactive workshops: The Casino, a theatre based workshop run by local group Cap-a-Pie, explored how a proposed regeneration project for a run-down seaside resort might impact a local community by actually asking participants to step into the shoes of the community themselves. An experimental methodology, it seemed extremely well received by those who took part. Jane Riley, Joanna Saunders and Carol Weir, a team based at Leeds Beckett University, gave a great workshop on the ‘total systems approach’ to obesity prevention – with participants asked to think about how they could make a real difference in their own work – quite a challenge! Douglas White of the Carnegie Trust did an excellent presentation on the Trust’s Place Standard tool – which I’m sure participants will be using in future projects. Finally Pete Wright’s team undertook a kind of speed dating event for participants to become familiar with various aspects of the MyPlace project based at Newcastle University’s OpenLab.
I was really impressed by how participants became quickly absorbed – all the workshops were clearly thoughtfully prepared and the feedback overwhelming positive – so my huge thanks to all the organisers.
Tim Townshend is Director of Planning and Urban Design and Deputy Head of School.