Meeting 4: Planning, transport and well-being

The fourth evidence session of the APPG’s inquiry on well-being and policy was held on 12th May 2014 under the heading “Planning, transport and well-being”. This session examined the evidence about how the built environment can support well-being, and what this means for planning and transport policy.



Kathy MacEwen, Head of Planning and Enabling, Design Council Cabe

Anna Scott-Marshall, Head of External Affairs, Royal Institute of British Architects

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport

Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner, Department for Communities and Local Government

Group Members

David Lammy MP (chair), Baroness Claire Tyler, Helen Goodman MP, Chris Ruane MP, Lord Richard Layard, Lord Alan Howarth


The session opened with a presentation from Saamah Abdallah, Senior Researcher at NEF, introducing the evidence on planning and well-being. We heard how the built environment can influence well-being through the provision of green spaces, social spaces and opportunities for active transport like cycling and walking; and how the planning process can also influence well-being by involving communities in shaping the places they live.

This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion in which a number of themes emerged:

  • Well-being centred planning makes economic sense in the long run –  for instance, providing opportunities for physical activity saves public money through improved public health; prioritising green space and active transport reduces pollution, which has long-term economic and health benefits.
  • It is important to be clear what the objective of ‘well-being centred planning’ is and how this connects to other policy objectives. For instance, well-being evidence may not suggest a demonstrable case for protecting green belts, but this may support other policy objectives such as protecting ecosystems or preventing settlements from merging. We also need to consider well-being impacts on vulnerable groups as well as aggregate well-being – for example, by creating inclusive built environments that are accessible for an ageing population.
  • Existing tools of policy appraisal are inadequate for a well-being approach. Conventional cost-benefit analysis ignores or under-values many of the impacts which matter most for well-being, such as community cohesion or air and noise pollution. This skews the system towards certain policy outcomes (for instance, road building) which may not optimise well-being.

Full notes of the discussion are available here. Saamah Abdallah’s slides are available here.