UK’s healthiest and unhealthiest places

Looking at the map provided by RSPH, our area (perhaps because of its paucity of cities) is among the healthier places to live. RSPH has published a league table ranking 70 of Britain’s major towns and cities by the impact of their high streets on the public’s health and wellbeing.

The rankings, based on the prevalence of different types of businesses found in the towns’ main retail areas, see Grimsby rated as having the unhealthiest high street, with Edinburgh coming out as the healthiest. This ranking excludes London high streets, which have been ranked separately. See full top and bottom 10 below, Exeter being one of the better cities for health and wellbeing.

The league table features in the new RSPH report, Health on the High Street: Running on empty, which follows on from the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a package of measures designed to reinvigorate the nation’s High Streets. This is a follow-up report to the original RSPH Health on the High Street published in 2015 and assesses changes in British retail areas over the past three years.

The report updates the methodology used in 2015, to reflect the changing face of the British high street, adding off-licences and empty shops to the negative influences on health, and cafes and vape shops to the positive influences.

The top 10 “unhealthiest” British high streets were ranked as:
  1. Grimsby
  2. Walsall
  3. Blackpool
  4. Stoke-On-Trent
  5. Sunderland
  6. Northampton
  7. Bolton
  8. Wolverhampton
  9. Huddersfield
  10. Bradford
The top 10 “healthiest” British high streets were ranked as:
  1. Edinburgh
  2. Canterbury
  3. Taunton
  4. Shrewsbury
  5. Cheltenham
  6. York
  7. Brighton & Hove
  8. Eastbourne
  9. Exeter
  10. Cambridge

Average life expectancy for people living in areas with the top 10 healthiest high streets is two and a half years longer than for those in the 10 unhealthiest ranked areas.

What makes somewhere unhealthy?

Changes to British high streets that have influenced the rankings now include:

  • A growth in the number of fast food shops by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017, especially in the most deprived areas, which now have five times more fast food shops than the most affluent areas;
  • The number of vape shops has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in the past three years;
  • The high street vacancy rate has increased from below 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

RSPH is now calling for a range of measures to make British high streets more health-promoting, including:

Recommendations from the report are:

• HM Treasury to review how businesses are taxed to ensure that online businesses are not put at an unfair advantage compared to the high street

• Facebook and Google to provide discounted advertising opportunities to local, independent health-promoting businesses

• Local authorities to support meanwhile use of shops by making records on vacant commercial properties publically accessible

• Vape shops to ensure all customers who smoke are aware of their local stop smoking service

• Councils to set differential rent classes for tenants based on how health-promoting their business offer is

• Business rates relief for businesses that try to improve the public’s health

• Industry and all businesses selling food on the high street – cafés, pubs, fast food outlets, convenience stores, leisure centres – to reduce the calories in their products

• The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to provide local authorities with the power and support to restrict the opening of new betting shops and other unhealthy outlets where there are already clusters

• Local authorities nationwide to introduce A5 planning restrictions within 400 metres of primary and secondary schools

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