THE EFFECT OF LAND USE ACTIVITIES ON THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
This research is concerned with the effect of land use on the health and safety of the environment. the relationship between the planning of settlements and health. It gives a brief introduction to the issues before summarising the evidence in relation to a range of topics, concluding with some more speculative thoughts on likely future findings. Modern planning was invented in response to inhumane living conditions in 19th century cities. But in the last century the connection was lost. Only now, with concerns over climate change and obesity, is there beginning to be the realization that the physical environment is an important determinant of health.
- Background of the study
The focus of this paper is on land use planning for healthy human settlements. It is widely recognized that the spatial planning of human urban activity is affecting quality of life, health and well-being. First to give some definitions: settlements in this context include cities, towns and villages. The tentacles of large settlements spread out far beyond urban areas, into hinterlands and networks, linking places together through commuter residence and work, retail, educational and leisure activities. So there is no clear functional distinction between urban and rural settlements within a town or city region. Land use planning is conventionally called ‘town and country planning’ in Britain, following the 1947 Act, but since 2004 is officially termed ‘spatial planning’, implying a more integrated, inter-agency process. In literature the term ‘built environment’ is often used to mean the human-made environment that may be subject to planning. It does not refer only to buildings and hard infrastructure but to all the physical elements that go to make up settlements, including greenspace. Health is defined broadly, in line with the World Health Organization (WHO), as ‘not only the absence of disease but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief or economic or social condition’ (WHO, 1946). Health in this sense is linked to every aspect of life – the social, the economic and the environmental – and can be seen as consonant with the anthropogenic version of sustainable development evident in the UN Brundtland definition. Just as equity (intra-generational as well as inter-generational) is a key aspect of sustainable development, so concern for health inequalities is central to public health policy.