Local councils play an enormous role in designing our communities which inherently impacts the lives of its residents. This can be as simple as having green spaces to walk and cycle in; community spaces to hold meetings in and being able to be social with neighbours. Therefore, the health of residents should be at the epicentre when considering planning and neighbourhood plans.
Additionally, local councils are becoming increasingly responsible for delivering services and running assets within the community. The majority of which, will directly affect the health and wellbeing of residents. By focussing on health and wellbeing, these services and assets can be run with residents at the heart. Examples of which can be seen below.
What can councils do?
Increasingly, more local councils are producing a neighbourhood plan. This allows councils to play an active role in constructing their communities to make sure that: there are places for residents to meet in their community; ensure that the community is guaranteeing an active lifestyle for residents by encouraging walking and cycling and by supporting local services and public transport; by implementing open spaces to encourage residents to eat healthily by providing allotments, orchards and growing spaces and, providing homes and neighbourhoods that meet the needs of all people, including the elderly and disabled.
Local councils have a long history of organising allotments in their communities. Allotments promote a healthy lifestyle by promoting being outside, moving and being active and a healthy diet. NALC believes that local councils should encourage residents to use local allotments.
Many local councils have introduced an outdoor gym to their local park. Outdoor gyms promote a healthy lifestyle for residents through keeping fit and being in green spaces. This may encourage more people to attend the park if the asset is underutilised.
Healthwatch is the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services. They find out what matters to people, and help make sure their views shape the support they need. Healthwatch England supports local Healthwatch to find out what people like about services, what could be improved, and they share these views with people in power to make change happen.
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The uses of leisure centres are a positive way to encourage a healthy lifestyle for residents. A number of local councils run their own leisure centres which provide residents with the use of a number of sport courts. This allows citizens to socialise as well as enjoy sports together. Leisure centres also bring people together of all ages and encourage a community spirit.
A lot of councils have control over parks or green spaces in their communities. This encourages residents to walk and cycle in green a space which is essential for a healthy lifestyle. NALC encourages all local councils to publicise their green spaces and to make sure that they are kept clean and tidy.
The health and lifestyle benefits of having access to trees and green spaces are well written about, (see NHS Forest and The Woodland Trust for more information). Trees are known for their calming benefits and their ability to improve air quality. If you or your council is passionate about trees and green spaces then please see NALC’s links with The Woodland Trust through The Tree Charter.
Owning and running a local skate park is a great initiative to encourage younger generations to be outside partaking in social and healthy activity and is low in cost to the council. There are numerous examples of local councils setting up their own skate parks and is a great initiative for the health and wellbeing of our communities.
Transport, in rural communities especially, is important to link residents to the town or city centre. It decreases the chance of isolation and loneliness amongst residents and provides a safe and easy way for people to meet each other. Increasingly, more local councils are funding their own community buses and transport to ensure that its residents have access to shops, hospitals, green spaces and a reliable way to meet their friends and family.