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UK's 'unhealthiest' High Streets revealed

Britain’s High Streets are getting unhealthier, according to a report analysing 70 major UK towns and cities.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked High Streets with more payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets the worst.

There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

Grimsby led the unhealthy High Street list ahead of Walsall and Blackpool, while Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton had the healthiest outlets.

Outlets that were considered good for people included leisure centres, health services, libraries and museums and art galleries.

The report also considered pubs and bars as being good for people, because they are centres for social interaction.

However, they are in decline and many people are using the UK’s 22,000 coffee shops as places to socialise, eat and drink instead.

The number of fast-food outlets on UK streets rose by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017 and there was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

London’s High Streets were not considered in the report, as they have been ranked separately in the city.

Each business was scored on the basis of whether it encouraged healthy lifestyle choices, promoted social interaction and greater access to health services.

The UK’s 10 unhealthiest High Streets are:

  • Grimsby
  • Walsall
  • Blackpool
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunderland
  • Northampton
  • Bolton
  • Wolverhampton
  • Huddersfield
  • Bradford

The UK’s 10 healthiest High Streets are:

  • Edinburgh
  • Canterbury
  • Taunton
  • Shrewsbury
  • Cheltenham
  • York
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Eastbourne
  • Exeter
  • Cambridge

The report paints a picture of the rapidly changing British High Street dominated by cafes and coffee shops, convenience stores, off-licences, vape shops and boarded-up premises.

Vape shops were counted as a “healthier” business, because of their role in discouraging smoking. However, the report added the “precise long-term effects of vaping are unknown”.

Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive said: “When our time and money are converted into a loss at the bookmaker, a tan from a sunbed, a high-cost loan or a bucket of fried chicken, the High Street is enabling and supporting poor health behaviours.

“Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.

“Reshaping these High Streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance.”

The rise in online retail is linked to the growing numbers of empty premises, which have increased from 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

This year the High Street has seen several big name closures including Toys R Us and Maplin and, in this week’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond cut the business rates for small retailers, and proposed a new tax on online retailers in an effort to boost physical shops.

However industry bodies said the changes didn’t go far enough.

The RSPH is calling for further measures including urging local authorities to make vacant properties publicly accessible for what is known as “meanwhile use” – pop-up art galleries or community centres.

The London rankings showed that the borough of Haringey boasted both the most unhealthy street, West Green Road in Seven Sisters, and the healthiest one, in Muswell Hill.

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BBC News – Health