Cardiff Council in Wales has an ambitious policy to make every street for every citizen a healthy street: working in collaboration with Living Streets this project looked at making that a reality.
Changing how we move around a growing city is Cardiff’s transport vision for the next ten years and includes a commitment to:
Rolling out a ‘streets for health’ initiative across the city, to enable all streets to be reclaimed as public spaces and become healthy, green, safe, child friendly, to encourage walking and cycling, with high quality pedestrian crossings, biodiversity, planting and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS), and provide improved access for everyone, particularly those with restricted mobility.
Urban Habitats worked in collaboration with Living Streets on this commission to provide a team that integrated Urban Habitats’ community health knowledge with Living Streets’ expertise in community engagement and co-production.
- Approach to prioritising investment by health need.
- A community health profile of a pilot area.
- Community drop-in sessions.
- A pop up parklet at a community market.
- Community survey.
- Street audits with residents and stakeholders.
- A capacity building workshop with about 50 local authority staff.
- A report & recommendations to the local authority.
A range of sources of data including public health data and participatory community events were used to provide a range of evidence sources including the lived experience of community members.
The approach included understanding the health priorities for the city of Cardiff and using public health and other relevant sources to develop a method for prioritising street level interventions for health and wellbeing impact considering where the greatest need was. To our knowledge this is a novel approach to prioritising funding for interventions.
Capacity building and understanding for the Streets for Health initiative within the local authority was also important: a half-day participatory workshop was undertaken with about 40 staff from a range of services including transport policy, play services, highways, and others.
From this initial data gathering a draft prioritised list of interventions was proposed and one of these in the Plasnewydd area was developed in more detail. An approach of community asset mapping was used, including listening to the lived experience of community members. This comprised a series of public drop in events including at a Saturday market, community street audits, and school street audits with a local primary school. Living Streets expertise in community and school engagement was supported by Urban Habitats to frame questions and activities to health and wellbeing outcomes.
The learning and engagement from these events were an important outcome. Findings were also presented to Cardiff Council as a joint written report combining both health and wellbeing context and goals alongside actionable street audit findings.
As a legacy for this project Living Streets Cymru supported the establishment of a grassroots Living Streets Local Group of residents which is now active in promoting walking and healthy streets in the area.
What we learned
This was a valuable opportunity to bring together Living Streets expertise in working with communities and street audit with Urban Habitats focus on wellbeing and health outcomes. So for example it was really valuable to integrate our understanding of pathways to health impact into the community survey.
This project involved taking an adopted policy and then turning that into actionable guidance. The work highlighted the importance of this being a systemic and ongoing series of activities to bring policy into reality on the ground. Community discussions and valuing lived experience are important outcomes and can provide a quick way to start to make progress in health impact even if physical changes take longer to implement.
Our mapping technique developed existing approaches using stickers with relatable questions and statements was very successful and worked well for starting discussions.