Living in a healthy local environment means having physical surroundings that are safe and accessible and that connect you to your community. The statistics show that the areas of the country experiencing the most disadvantage have the worst environmental conditions. These include risk of flooding, poor air quality, litter and lack of access to green space.

As well as green space, a healthy environment is about being able to live in a clean area with clean air. It’s also about getting around, with safe and well-lit roads, good public transport, accessible shops and equal access for disabled people.

On a local level, a healthy environment means safe spaces where people can get together, get active and boost their health. Community allotments or gardens and parks, for example, help people stay physically and mentally healthy.

Feeling connected with our local environment is also about feeling more connected with each other. As those connections grow, communities can do more together to improve and influence their local environment.

Our work on local environment and health

The local environment is one of our key policy areas. It is also the top priority for the many of our funded partners and this is reflected in the projects we fund from both our Local Conversations and Active Communities funding programmes, tackling issues such as access to green spaces and community spaces, safety and transport.

Nature for Health supports improved mental health through nature. It launched in February 2024 and is a priority within the Health Justice Fund.

There have been significant reductions in community spaces and assets in recent years, which are essential for building social connections and reducing isolation. These are key building blocks for strong communities to thrive. We call on the next government to commit to funding the development of local infrastructure programmes in places where health inequalities are highest in our Community manifesto for health justice.

Anxiety has increased over the past year and the community allotment gives people the freedom to relax, learn and play whilst connecting with nature and the local community.

Monica Runke

Community Development Worker, Surrey Care Trust, Local Conversation in Stanwell.

The research on local environment and health.

Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health: A report from the Design Council, highlighting the various health inequalities linked to green spaces, 2010.

Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2022: air pollution. Independent report published by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 2022.

Impacts of air pollution across the life course. – Evidence highlight report commissioned by the Local Government Association from Imperial College London, 2023.

Breathing Unequal, Examining health inequalities and lung conditions, A report by Asthma+Lung UK, 2023.

Sustainable Health Equity: Achieving a Net Zero UK . Advisory Group report for the UK Committee on Climate Change, Institute of Health Equity, 2020.

UK Climate Change Committee, Sixth Carbon Budget: A report issued to parliament setting out the policy changes required to meet Net Zero requirements, 2020.