Health & wellbeing

Health and wellbeing

Vision – Healthy and inclusive

Addressing the potential for planning to improve health and wellbeing links to the 2040 vision of Exeter being a healthy and inclusive city. Improvements to active travel routes, creating attractive public spaces, providing access to nature and access to housing and jobs all play a considerable role in improving health, wellbeing and inclusivity for our communities.

Vision – The most active city in the UK

Addressing the potential for planning to improve health and wellbeing links to the 2040 vision of Exeter becoming the most active city in the UK. Ensuring development takes place in appropriate locations, minimises the need to travel and provides routes and infrastructure for walking and cycling will be central to improving health and wellbeing.

Objective: Promote inclusive development which supports communities in becoming healthier and helps Exeter to become the most active city in the UK. Helping to deliver the strategic priorities of net zero Exeter by 2030, promoting active and healthy lifestyles and building great neighbourhoods.


Generally, Exeter has a good quality housing stock, a large number of council houses and high levels of employment. Exeter also has high levels of walking and cycling and large areas of accessible green space. A broad range of health facilities including the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and multiple GP surgeries provide access to healthcare across the city. All these factors support health and wellbeing. 

The picture of health and wellbeing is not the same across the city. People living in its more disadvantaged areas can have comparatively poor health, lower literacy and may experience frailty earlier in life. Although pollution levels in Exeter are low most of the time there are issues of poor air quality in some areas related to the main roads. In some areas and at certain times, crime and anti-social behaviour can be a concern. 

The Exeter Plan will play a part in improving health and wellbeing by providing quality housing, supporting job creation, enabling increases in physical activity to get 50% of trips starting and finishing in the city to be on foot or by bike, enhancing nature, supporting improvements in air quality and supporting the delivery of the health infrastructure we need. 

Chapter Summary

The policies in this sections seek to promote inclusive development which supports communities in becoming healthier and more active.

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Policy H1 requires development proposals to consider a number of key health and wellbeing priorities including promoting community inclusion, encouraging safe and healthy neighbourhoods, promoting active lifestyles, enhancing nature, providing quality housing, supporting job creation, improvements in air quality and the delivery of the health infrastructure we need.

Policy HW2 requires development proposals to mitigate and reduce adverse air, land or water pollution resulting from the construction and operational phases of development, and to make contaminated land suitable for the proposed use.


Pollution and contaminated land

Development has the potential to result in pollution to air, water or land either through release of pollutants during construction or operation, or by disturbance and mobilisation of historical contamination. Development can also be adversely affected by existing pollution. It is important to ensure that all development takes appropriate steps to minimise the risks of creating new sources of contamination and mitigates the risks from historical contamination where necessary. Developers must therefore consider the potential effects of pollution on human health and safety, the environment and the amenity of adjacent or nearby land users. Environmental health legislation provides a means to regulate many forms of pollution should it arise, but it is clearly preferable to ensure new development is appropriate for its location and hence prevent conflict arising in the first place. 

Air quality in Exeter is generally good, but monitoring of nitrogen dioxide has resulted in the designation of an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) along some of the major roads. The City Council has produced an Air Quality Action Plan, which proposes a series of measures to tackle these issues, and development will need to ensure it supports and will not be detrimental to delivery of this plan. The effects of development (including cumulative impacts) and existing pollution levels should be taken into account when deciding whether new development is appropriate for its location. Air pollution includes odour and both existing and potential new sources of odour (such as kitchen extraction systems) will be a material consideration when determining planning applications. 

Exeter is crossed by a number of water courses and the area is also underlain by rock formations designated by the Environment Agency as principal and secondary aquifers. These aquifers contain potable groundwater which also flows into watercourses. Therefore there is the potential for development to affect the quality or quantity of water in rivers and aquifers and thus affect water dependant habitats and private water supplies. New development must not have an adverse impact upon water quality (for example by an increase in sewage effluent discharge) or water quantity (for example by preventing recharge to aquifers). The City Council will support initiatives that result in an improvement to water quality (as required by the Water Framework Directive). Policy CC9 also considers water quantity and quality.

Light and noise pollution arising from new development or affecting new development can individually and cumulatively have a damaging impact upon people’s health, living environments and wildlife. Whilst lighting is desirable for safety, recreation and the enhancement of some buildings, inappropriate lighting can cause sky-glow, nuisance, light trespass and it also wastes energy. Inappropriate levels of noise can affect people’s use and enjoyment of their homes, their ability to work or learn and their health. 

Land contamination from former uses is also a key consideration as it has the potential to cause harm to the environment and public health and safety. Unless dealt with appropriately, it can inhibit the re-use of otherwise suitable sites and cause property blight. It is important that potential contamination is identified early to ensure that appropriate remediation measures are incorporated into the scheme. Remediation should remove unacceptable risk and make the site suitable for its new use. Additional advice for developers on the process for assessing contaminated sites and information on remediation works is set out in the City Council’s Contaminated Land Strategy. As explained in this Strategy, voluntary remediation (particularly through development) will be encouraged as a means of dealing with any contamination legacy.  

The City Council encourages pre-application discussions where pollution is or might be an issue. All applications for development must contain sufficient information to enable the City Council to make a full assessment of potential pollution and hazards. Development proposals on land affected by contamination (or where there is reason to suspect contamination) must include an assessment of the extent of the contamination and any possible risks. 

Developers need to demonstrate prior to determination that it is technically and economically viable to resolve any issues and that the resulting development will have, or will result in, a satisfactory standard of amenity and that no unacceptable risks to human health or the environment will remain. This will need to involve adequate assessment by a competent person. 

Activities (including traffic) during the construction and operational phases of development can also have adverse impacts and it may be necessary to submit a Construction and Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). For certain types of development an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be required to ensure that the environmental impacts are comprehensively considered.

Policy HW2 requires development proposals to mitigate and reduce adverse pollution resulting from construction and operational phases of development, and to ensure contaminated land is suitable for the proposed use.

HW2: Pollution and contaminated land

All development proposals should be designed, constructed and operated to mitigate and reduce to a minimum potential adverse impacts resulting from emissions and light, dust, vibration and noise pollution, and where possible, contribute to the improvement of local environmental conditions. This includes the construction and operational phases of development. 

Development proposals will only be permitted where, individually and cumulatively, taking account of proposed mitigation, remediation and an assessment of future monitoring, there are no unacceptable impacts on:

  1. Air quality;
  2. Noise levels;
  3. Surface and ground water quality;
  4. Local environmental quality;
  5. Amenity; and
  6. Land and soil condition.

Development proposals on land affected by contamination, pollution or in areas affected by poor standards of amenity will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. Any unacceptable adverse impacts on future occupants are avoided; and
  2. The development will not place unreasonable restrictions on the future operation of existing businesses.
Proposals on land affected by contamination will only be permitted where the land is, or can be made, suitable for the proposed use.

Health and wellbeing

Planning plays an important role in the health and wellbeing of residents. It can promote community inclusion, deliver healthy neighbourhoods, promote active lifestyles, reduce environmental impacts on health and ensure the safety of communities and individuals. Devon County Council have produced a Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy which discusses the importance of new development in addressing these issues. 

On a national level, the Town and Country Planning Association have also launched a campaign that seeks to improve the quality of new houses coming forward in England called ‘Healthy Homes’. This seeks to introduce 11 healthy homes principles that all new homes should meet. A Healthy Homes Bill is currently making its way through Parliament, which if passed into law would place additional responsibilities on Local Planning Authorities to have regard to the healthy homes principles. In the interim, we have sought to address the need for healthy homes in the policies proposed in the Exeter Plan, including this chapter. 

Policy HW1 requires development proposals to consider a number of key health and wellbeing priorities at an early stage in the design of larger developments, and to demonstrate how this will be achieved through a health impact assessment. 

More details on the key requirements to be considered through the development process are provided below.

Development should promote community inclusion by:  

  • Delivering a variety of housing tenures and types;
  • Supporting a range of employment opportunities;
  • Avoiding severance (e.g. by a major road that is difficult to cross); 
  • Providing local infrastructure such as schools, social care and community facilities;
  • Enabling good access by active travel and public transport; and
  • Providing places and buildings which are accessible to all, in particular those with protected characteristics.

Development should encourage healthy neighbourhoods by:

  • Avoiding an over-concentration of hot-food takeaways, particularly along routes to schools; 
  • Providing allotments where demand exists; and
  • Delivering a range of employment premises to support a mix of jobs and encourage independent stores. 

Development should promote active lifestyles by:

  • Retaining or providing open, natural and recreational spaces;
  • Providing links to open, natural and recreational spaces;
  • Minimising the need to travel by car; and
  • Encouraging walking and cycling away from main traffic routes.

Development should have a positive impact on health by:

  • Creating an attractive environment for housing and employment including street trees and other spaces for wildlife;
  • Minimising air and noise pollution and ensuring existing sources do not negatively affect residents;
  • Ensuring dust, noise, smoke, light and odours emitted during building works are controlled;
  • Ensuring that new homes provide year-round thermal comfort for inhabitants; and
  • Including features to mitigate the impact of climate change, especially those providing for urban cooling in the face of rising summer temperatures.

Development should ensure safety and wellbeing by:

  • Including appropriate layouts for roads and public spaces that prioritise walking and cycling, manage driving speeds and reduce conflict between road users; and  
  • Utilising principles to design out crime, including layouts that provide active frontages and passive surveillance.

HW1: Health and wellbeing (Strategic policy)

Development proposals should maximise opportunities for achieving positive mental and physical health outcomes. All large scale residential development proposals should be accompanied by a Health Impact Assessment demonstrating how the proposal will:  

  1. Promote community inclusion; 
  2. Encourage healthy neighbourhoods; 
  3. Promote active lifestyles; 
  4. Have a positive impact on health and wellbeing; and
  5. Promote safety.

Where any potential adverse health and wellbeing impacts are identified, the applicant will be expected to demonstrate how these will be mitigated. 

Contributions towards improved GP provision will be sought where necessary. 

Development proposals for new healthcare facilities will be supported where they are easily accessible by public transport and link effectively to walking and cycling routes. 

Development proposals for the multi-use and co-location of healthcare provision with other services and facilities to support the convenient coordination of local care will be supported.

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