Environment

Environmental factors are a key determinant of health. This section outlines and provides links to the environmental factors that are particularly relevant for Slough. The policies developed jointly by Slough Borough Council and its partners are focused on ensuring that risks to health from environmental factors are monitored, regulated, managed and where necessary enforced so integrated action is taken to protect and enhance health and wellbeing in the town.

As a predominately urban area Slough’s environment is dominated by residential areas, the large SEGRO commercial trading estate in the east and to the west of the borough smaller commercial areas. Slough, due to its position close to London and in particular Heathrow Airport and the M4, M25 and M40 motorways, is a transport and communications centre.

Slough is a densely built up area, and there is little scope to expand the urban area due to numerous constraints including the M4, areas liable to flood, air quality issues, and landfill sites. The shortage of land is leading to increasing congestion and an intensification of use within the urban area, including residential areas with the potential negative impact upon health and wellbeing. The lack of unconstrained open land also places the undeveloped areas under pressure from overspill that cannot be accommodated within the built up area.

What do we know?

Exposure to poor air quality is known to have important adverse health effects. In the short-term these include acute exacerbations of respiratory disorders, whereas long-term exposure contributes to development of chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, lung cancer, stroke and heart failure . In addition to this, epidemiological evidence suggests that reducing air pollution significantly reduces the burden of these diseases and can also have a positive effect on health inequalities. (Source: WHO Health Risks of Air Pollution in Europe).

The link between environmental noise and adverse health effects including increased stress and anxiety is also well recognised (Source: Noise Exposure and Public Health). Due to these known associations with health The Public Health Outcomes Framework (Department of Health) includes air quality and noise among key indicators of public health.

In addition to air and noise pollution exposure, it is important that the products we buy, including the food we eat, is safe. Infectious diseases can be spread through improperly prepared food and through procedures such as tattooing, ear and body piercing.

The environment can also affect our health indirectly through affecting our lifestyles and habits. The term “obesogenic environment” refers to the role environmental factors can play in people’s heating habits and physical activity levels. Evidence suggests that there are associations between access to take-aways, safety of neighbourhoods, safety, availability and access to green spaces and sports centres all have a effect on risk of obesity in the population (NOO environmental factors).

Facts, Figures, Trends

Air Quality

While a large number of air pollutants are known to impact respiratory and cardiovascular health, the most important in terms of burden of disease are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The fraction of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution in Slough is estimated to be significantly higher than the England average at 6.4% compared with 5.3% nationally.
(Source: Public Health England Fingertips)

Under the Environment Act, Local Authorities have a mandatory duty to review air quality locally, and to set up Air Quality Management Areas in  high risk areas. There are four Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in Slough located across the borough in; Chalvey in the South of the borough, the Town Centre and Colnbrook in the East. There were breeches of recommended levels of nitrogen dioxide (annual mean concentration) measured at various sites within each of the Air Quality Management Areas over 2014. No breeches of particulate matter concentration levels were measured over this same period.
(Source: 2015 Updating and Screening Assessment for Slough Borough Council)

Daily data on air quality in Slough, and for each major pollutant is available via AirTextInfo.

Noise pollution

The most recent published estimates of rates of noise complaints for Slough were 3.5 per 1000 per year lower than England average (2013-14), however, the percentage of the population exposed to road rail or air transport noise pollution significantly higher than national averages at 8.5% for exposure to daytime noise pollution and 14.8% for exposure to night time noise pollution (compared to England rates of is 5.2% and 8% respectively).

Parks and Open Spaces

Slough has 87 parks and open spaces and numerous green corridors and natural features which are accessible to the public. Despite this, the proportion of the population using outdoor space for exercise or health estimated at 7.2% over 2013-14 much lower than England average of 17.1%.
(Source: Public Health England Fingertips)

Food safety

There are 966 registered food businesses in Slough and of those 91% were broadly compliant in terms of food safety regulations in 2014.

National & Local Strategies (Current best practices)

National

Protecting and enhancing our urban and natural environment to improve public health and wellbeing is a policy document published by the last government (2010-2015) outlining key pieces of legislation and policies relating to air quality, noise pollution and local environment quality. These include:

Other important documents relating to shaping healthy environments includ Planning Healthy-Weight Environments 2014 Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Pubic Health England (PHE) and Building Health: Creating and enhancing places for healthy, active lives. 2007.

Local

The following are areas where planning and building control play a key role in helping to protect and deliver a healthy environment. The Annual Report details the success of the Local Development Plan. The Local Development Framework is a requirement of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Built Environment:

Delivering comprehensive regeneration projects to improve the quality of life for residents and economic development, such as projects in Chalvey (community centre), Britwell (housing and community centre) and the Town Centre. For more information see the borough’s Site Allocations Development Plan.

Air Quality Management Area

Slough Low Emission Strategy over 2015/16 to tackle poor air quality associated with road transport. The outcome aims of the strategy are: Short/Medium term - by 2020 to achieve NO2 compliance with EU limits within the authority through the adoption of air quality/low emission vehicle/infrastructure mitigation via the planning system and through transport bids to LEP and OLEV; this is a statutory outcome. Longer term (2020 onwards) to reduce the emission ceiling within Slough Borough for all transport related air pollutants (including NOx, particulates and CO2) to improve the environment and health outcomes. This links into Public Health Outcomes over the 5year plan.

Environmental noise

The council has started to map environmental noise on its GIS database, in particular noise from aircraft movements from Heathrow Airport and road traffic noise.
The council has planning policies that ensure developments are not built in areas of excessive environmental noise. Additionally, when environmental noise is likely to cause a significant impact, sound insulation and ventilation measures are incorporated within the design of the building to ensure an adequate level of protection to future residential occupiers. For more information see the Core Strategy Development Plan.

Health and wellbeing at workplaces

In Slough this is a shared responsibility between the Health and Safety Executive and the council. Serious accidents are investigated and sensible risk management including the risks from asbestos, legionella infection control and smoking in work and public places.

The council has close links with Slough Working Well and supports local business through Slough Working Well, Estates Excellence and our Primary Authority Partnerships to help create safe working environments in the town reducing accidents and stress related illness. More information can be found on our health and safety page.

Neighbourhood environment

The Neighbourhood Enforcement Teams are responsible for dealing with public health nuisance, neighbourhood noise, pests and environmental crime including fly tipping, mismanagement of commercial waste, littering, stray dogs and abandoned vehicles. The neighbourhood enforcement page gives more information.

What is this telling us?

Environmental Health and Trading Standards teams play a vital part in promoting wellbeing, protecting public health and preventing health harms. They work closely with all departments in the council and have a prevention role working with schools and local businesses.

The work of the Environmental Health teams is primarily statutory and spans two key domains of public health - health improvement and health protection.

The work on health protection is already intensive and linked to Public Health England surveillance programmes. Their work leading the Tobacco Control Plan addresses key needs for Slough and will benefit from the latest advice from the Department of Health on where and how to target services. The harms of counterfeit tobacco and alcohol products are considerable and this intelligence is critical for shaping drug and alcohol response services.
There is scope to coordinate their work on reducing stress in the workplace through a public mental health strategy for Slough.

There is scope to further promote the air text advice (for residents with respiratory diseases) through the clinical commissioning group and children’s centres. Also, more residents should be aware of how to access the food safety ratings in making choices about where they eat.

What are the key inequalities?

Environmental Health services are universal services, yet the prevention aspects of their work specifically focus on deprived groups who are at the greatest risk of respiratory diseases, obesity, or cardiovascular diseases arising from smoking or other tobacco or alcohol products.

The directorate operates a range of key services which enable intelligence for targeted provision. Some examples of these are the free school meals service and annual school food audit, the Catering for Health Award and the Tobacco Control Alliance. Other services work with specific vulnerable groups such as travellers.

What are the unmet needs/service gaps?

The range of services provided are already comprehensive, however the service gaps which are being addressed are those related to evidence based recommendation to inform requests for new food and alcohol and tobacco premises, for targeting the tobacco control work programme and for developing community alcohol and mental health strategies.

Other gaps would require approval by schools to enable the free school meal service to evaluate the impact of public health interventions such as the introduction of school meals standards in line with School Food Trust and Healthy Schools programme recommendations

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations:

Public-facing services should make people aware of information available to them regarding environmental health, including the airtext service and food safety ratings for local premises.

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