Healthy Streets Scorecard – making sense of the 15 minute neighbourhood

As we approach three years since the adoption of the latest London Plan, and we enter an election year for the post of Mayor of London, now is an opportune time to reflect on the success of the latest London Plan and its policies.

Policy T2 ‘Healthy Streets’ forms part of the latest London Plan which was adopted in March 2021. This requires Local Development Plans and development proposals to demonstrate the application of the Mayor of London’s Healthy Streets approach, which is underpinned by ten Healthy Streets indicators.

Healthy Streets is an evidence-based approach to improve health and reduce health inequalities, which will help Londoners use cars less, and walk, cycle and use public transport more. This is sought by bringing about positive changes to the character and use of the city’s streets.

The Healthy Streets Scorecard is a tool which analyses the performance of London boroughs in implementing and delivering Healthy Streets. Inevitably, it is typically inner London boroughs which perform better against the scorecard. Inner London boroughs benefit from higher population density and better public transport connections in particular which facilitate an easier switch from cars to walking, cycling and public transport. It is therefore no surprise the City of London was the overall Healthy Streets Scorecard winner for 2023.

Consideration is needed therefore as to how the Healthy Streets policy could evolve in the next iteration of the London Plan to ensure that the policy can be successfully implemented across the capital, in particular in outer London boroughs.

Despite the inevitable chasm between the performance of inner and outer London boroughs, there are a select number of outlying London boroughs which have performed well on the Scorecard since its inception.

Richmond-upon-Thames has scored relatively well this year primarily as a result of the introduction of 20mph speed limits across 100% of its borough controlled roads. This made roads far safer for cyclists and pedestrians as well as discouraging car use overall, resulting in a modal shift.

Waltham Forest consistently scores well thanks to its impressive cycle track rollout, having been part of the ‘Mini-Hollands’ scheme which began in 2013 and was supported by TfL funding. Whilst funding is needed to create large-scale cycle networks, the addition of dedicated cycle lanes to more of London’s roads provides a separation between cyclists and vehicles improving safety, thus encouraging more people to cycle.

Low-Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) provision is trickier to implement as many outer London boroughs contain semi-rural and rural neighbourhoods where car dependence is inevitable. Focus on town centres is therefore key. Bromley is an example of a London borough which has many rural neighbourhoods. However LTNs have been used sparingly in its large centres, particularly in Beckenham and Orpington, and this does not go far enough in encouraging the modal switch required for a better Healthy Streets performance.

The evidence from the performance of outer London boroughs suggests that the use of Healthy Streets initiatives are contextual. However there are certain measures which work better than others. The Healthy Streets policy should therefore evolve to provide different guidance for higher density and lower density neighbourhoods. This will prevent a blanket approach being taken and force outer London boroughs to focus on specific initiatives for specific neighbourhoods.

20mph speed limits and cycle lane initiatives however can be introduced across London, even in lower density neighbourhoods. The Healthy Streets policy should evolve to be far more bullish on promoting such initiatives and require development plans to include specific policies to implement these.

In higher density neighbourhoods, LTNs are far more feasible, as are controlled parking zones and traffic-free school streets. Again, the Healthy Streets policy should evolve to be far more bullish on promoting such initiatives and require development plans to to implement these by encouraging policies which require major planning applications to include a certain provision of such measures.

It is accepted that the scope of Healthy Steets is limited and it, along with other GLA initiatives such as the ULEZ expansion, will undoubtedly improve the output performance of the entire city. But forward-thinking leadership and bold decision making is also needed at council level. Nonetheless, the policy could go further to enable outer London boroughs to focus on the initiatives that work best for them, given their often more mixed density, and deliver the better health, social, economic and environmental outcomes that the Healthy Streets policy has set out to do.


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