Inviting young people to plan and design child-friendly, healthy environments

The environment around us has a big influence on the way we respond to our food and activity choices and the Move More Eat Well Partnership Plan aims to improve the quality of the environment by enabling easier access to opportunities that can influence a healthy lifestyle.

Part of this plan includes design and planning processes, including new housing or school developments, ensuring that ease of access to more active travel opportunities, play activities and healthier food choices is built into the process from the outset.

Encouraging the next generation of students to think more proactively about the way the environment around us impacts our lifestyle choices, pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr and St Athan Primary School were invited to participate in a project to design spaces that would benefit health and wellbeing, and also be child-friendly.

The project was initiated by the Cardiff and Vale Public Health Team, and partnerships developed with Cardiff Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Child Friendly Cities Team to get the project underway. It aimed to build knowledge and inspire young people to think about planning and designing child friendly communities.

Identifying two sites, in Cardiff and St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, the school pupils were given the opportunity to work with planners, development consultants and architects to plan and design housing developments with health and wellbeing at the core.

Working with Wates Residential and Powell Dobson Architects, Ysgol Plasmawr students undertook sessions with the design teams, including a visit to the construction site, to develop plans for how they would design the site. Prioritising the health and wellbeing of the future individuals that would be living there, the pupils considered the use of low carbon energy sources, electric charging points for vehicles, low speed limits and the inclusion of green spaces and sensory gardens. When considering the development of communal spaces, the pupils focused on ‘friendly benches’, play areas, allotments and outdoor gyms to encourage collaboration between individuals within the community and promote wellness.

The primary school students from St Athan had a lesson with a planner from the Vale of Glamorgan Council, explaining what planning is, discussing environmentally friendly designs and how they could enhance the land near their school using the Welsh Government, ‘Planning Our Wales’ resource. They drew up their ideas for how they would like a new housing development in St Athan to look.

Both the school groups had the opportunity to present their projects at the ‘Building a Child Friendly Cardiff and Vale symposium’ in March 2020.

Helping to instil knowledge to young people on the impacts of the environment on health, the project enabled them to think about the different ways the space can be enhanced to support individuals to live healthier lifestyles.

“The planning project was incredibly interesting and it was great to work with architects and be able to influence design decisions that may benefit someone to live a more balanced lifestyle,” explained a school pupil.

To find out more about the impact the environment has on our activity behaviours and eating habits, please visit www.movemoreeatwell.co.uk.