Ten NHS-supported 'healthy new towns' have been announced, designing cycling into them from ground up.
Tackling physical inactivity is one of the aims of the towns, which include sites in Bicester, Hampshire, Kent, Runcorn and Darlington, among others.
NHS chief Simon Stevens said "we'll kick ourselves" if the opportunity to make physical activity more attractive is missed.
Guidelines for the towns include "delivering radically improved infrastructure for safe active travel", tackling unhealthy and obesogenic environments, making the most of opportunities to encourage physical activity and "the use of behavioural nudges to encourage healthy behaviours".
Why now? It's not news that physical inactivity is costing the nation dearly, but the statistics cited by the NHS are eye-watering and prove once again that failing to take action would be disastrous.
- Physical inactivity is a direct factor in 1 in 6 deaths, and has an overall economic impact of £7.4 billion.
- 19 per cent of children aged 10-11 were obese and a further 14 per cent were overweight in 2014/15. The figures for 4-5 year olds were 9 per cent obese and 13 per cent overweight. In other words, the proportion of children who are obese doubles during primary school – from one in ten five year olds, to one in five eleven year olds.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The much-needed push to kick start affordable housing across England creates a golden opportunity for the NHS to help promote health and keep people independent. As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we’ll kick ourselves if in ten years time we look back having missed the opportunity to ‘design out’ the obesogenic environment, and ‘design in’ health and wellbeing.
“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school – rather than just exercising their fingers on video games."
The Healthy New Towns programme will initially include these ten sites:
- Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks. A new care campus will co-locate ‘care-ready homes’ specially designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.
- Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units. Data suggests that Cranbrook has three times the national average of 0-4 year olds and will look at how prevention and healthy lifestyles can be taught in schools from a young age.
- Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone. Darlington is developing a ‘virtual care home’ offer where a group of homes with shared facilities are configured to link directly into a digital care hub, avoiding institutionalisation in nursing homes.
- Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site.
- Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units.
- Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units.
- Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 1300 new homes planned.
- Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land.
- Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years.
- Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.
We imagine there'll be space for a few new bike shops within those sites...
Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said:“Some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges – such as obesity, mental health issues, physical inactivity and the needs of an ageing population – can all be influenced by the quality of our built and natural environment. The considerate design of spaces and places is critical to promote good health. This innovative programme will inform our thinking and planning of everyday environments to improve health for generations to come.
“PHE is proud to have played an active role in the development of the Healthy New Towns programme and we will continue to support the delivery of high quality, healthy environments.”