Tucked away in this Transport for London (TfL) finance and policy paper for Elephant and Castle re-development is the following paragraph:
This is the first time that we've seen TfL using the World Health Organisation's HEAT tool (Health and Economic Assessment Tool - see here for more details). The importance of this shift cannot be understated. Local groups such as Wandsworth Living Streets, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign and the Wandsworth Environment Forum have been asking Wandsworth Council to ensure proper consideration is given to public health implications when the council looks at street changes for quite a number of years now.
With TfL having taken the lead, how much longer will Wandsworth residents have to wait for our council to follow suit? For all the claims that Labour and the Conservatives make about the NHS, and by extension the importance of public health, the fact that the health implications of council actions and policy positions aren't regularly reported illustrates the lack of commitment to the importance of public health by both parties.
Despite the Liberal Democrat achievement in coalition getting the Health and Social Care Act 2012 through government, here in Wandsworth it seems that the local council, aside from moving the public health team into council offices, has not yet taken meaningful action. The act transferred responsibility for public health from the NHS to local authorities, in 2015 in Wandsworth neither Labour or the Conservatives appear to have taken this on-board.
Recently there has been national media coverage of the evidence that even just a little physical activity every day can make a real difference in reducing mortality rates. Being able to benchmark and quantify the health benefits from improving our street environment using an existing and independently developed tool seems like a sensible approach particularly given the limited public finances that are available.