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A healthy urban future for Flanders? Reducing the gap in knowledge for spatial policy and outlining consequences for governance.

Book Contribution - Chapter

In recent years a growing awareness for the impact of the built environment on health and well-being resulted in the emphasis on liveable urban environments as a precondition for spatial development in several Flemish spatial policy documents. However achieving a substantial shift to incorporate public health concerns in spatial policy initiatives or interventions is far from obvious. The paper raises the need to bridge the gap between the requisite technical expertise concerning environmental nuisance and spatial planning practice for the implementation of these spatial policy goals in Flanders. It discusses the results of recent research that give insights in public health issues from a specific spatial perspective and explores opportunities to achieve healthier environments focusing on air pollution, ambient noise and heat stress which are important environmental nuisances associated with health problems. The discussion will subsequently lead to implementation issues which are to be tackled in a shifting spatial governance context in Flanders. Ensuring healthy environments will mean dealing with the issue of scale, defining policy goals and co-operation in governance networks. Moreover acting in a setting of neo-liberalism, with a growing focus on private initiative, raises the issue of spatial health equality and risk of gentrification. An advocacy for a general shift to a transdisciplinary and multi-level and multi-actor governance approach for policy making concerning public health is made to provide opportunities for spatial planning, but also addressing specific focal locations will be in order to achieve healthier urban environments in the near future. The paper aims to contribute to the enhancement of healthy urban environments in Flanders by framing environmental health issues from a spatial perspective and discussing problems and possibilities for implementation of design solutions in a shifting spatial governance context.
Book: Spatial Governance Bridging Theory and Practice, YA Conference, Ghent
Number of pages: 12
Publication year:2016