One of the objectives of the planning system, according to Paragraph 8 of the NPPF, is “to support strong, vibrant and healthy communities.” Interesting, then, that an inspector determining an appeal against an enforcement notice directed at the change of use of a shop in Westminster to a shisha lounge (DCS Number 400-021-315) has concluded that “the development will not unduly harm public health”.
The inspector acknowledged that “Undoubtedly, smoking is not conducive to good health”, also recording that a development plan policy sought “to secure a healthy and safe environment and ensure that development maximises opportunities to contribute to health and well-being, including supporting opportunities for improved life chances and healthier lifestyle choices.” Nevertheless, and covering his ears against the noise of Westminster policy planners banging their heads against a wall, the inspector went on to reason that “There is nothing within the policy that explicitly resists uses which are unhealthy nor indeed which aims at preventing individuals from smoking.” Moreover, he continued, “smoking is a lawful activity”, ruling that the policy cannot prevent the personal choice of an individual to partake in an activity which is lawful.
The inspector concluded that the use of the property as a shisha lounge, operating within the bounds of the law, would not have an adverse effect on public health.
The point the inspector is missing here is that while planning policy cannot prevent personal choice, what it can do, and what it should do, is shape our environment to encourage healthy lifestyles.
The topic of shisha smoking is addressed at section 16.1125 of DCP Online.