Specially designed ‘healthy towns’ planned to address obesity, dementia

© David Gray
Ten new housing developments across the UK are to become ‘healthy towns’ as part of a new National Health Service (NHS) initiative set up to address problems such as obesity, infirmity and dementia.

The development of more than 76,000 homes, housing 170,000 people, is part of the ‘Healthy New Towns program’ first proposed in July 2015.

NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens will formally present the new plans in a speech to the Kings Fund in London on Tuesday.

“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,” Stevens will say.

NHS England has teamed up with renowned designers and technology experts to individually design each new town to tackle the health issues of the 21st century.

Design Council figures suggest only 21 percent of children play outdoors, compared with 71 percent of their parents’ generation when they were children, with physical inactivity a direct factor in 1 in 6 deaths. 

The unique designs will make it safer for children to play outside, making exercise far more accessible.

“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,” Stevens will say.

Under the scheme, the NHS also hopes to support those in old age and people living with mental illness with better social care backed by better technology.

Other options proposed include fast-food free zones and streets that are specially designed to help those suffering from dementia.

Public Health England National Director for Health and Wellbeing Professor Kevin Fenton backs the project.

“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,” said Fenton.

The biggest development is slated for Ebbsfleet, Kent, which promises to supply 15,000 new homes in the UK’s first garden city in 100 years.

Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, will see 10,000 new homes built on former military land whilst Barking Riverside will be built on London’s largest brownfield site.

The initiative, which attracted huge support from local authorities with 114 applicants, has been narrowed down to a shortlist of 10.

Other locations include: Whitehill and Bordon in Hampshire; Cranbrook in Devon; Darlington in County Durham; Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire; Halton Lea in Runcorn, Cheshire; Bicester in Oxfordshire and Barton Park in Oxford.