Back in 2015, the NHS laid out ambitious plans to integrate health matters into new developments, housing and town planning. As a result of this, 10 new towns with a total of 76,000 new homes for 170,000 people are being built in partnership with housing associations and Sport England. These bold new projects will all prioritise health. So, what happens if we build our communities with people’s health at the centre of their design?
NHS Healthy New Towns proposes that homebuilding and town planners think of health, economic growth, infrastructure, housing and environment as factors that are interconnected. There is a lot of evidence to show that thinking and designing in this joined-up way can have long-term benefits for society and those living in it.
What is a Healthy New Town?
A Healthy New Town is a place that encourages ‘active travel’. This could include making walking and cycling safe and desirable, or ensuring handy public transport links make driving unnecessary.
Open, outdoor spaces not just for exercise, but for socialising also make up part of the plans. With loneliness on the rise in the UK and over 9 million adults reporting that they feel lonely, designing our communities around people connecting safely with one other can help to tackle this.
Another aim of the Healthy New Towns is to encourage healthy eating. Ways to achieve this include ‘fast-food free’ zones around schools, or making sure shops that sell fresh produce are within a short walk of all households.
Each new town is being built in consideration for the specific health challenges a local area is facing. For example, if the population is set to be older in these towns, homes would be built so that they can easily be adapted as people’s abilities change, making sure people can remain independent for as long as possible.
3 aims of NHS Healthy New Towns
- Build new towns and neighbourhoods with strong communities – preventing illness and supporting health and wellness will be central to design
- By building 10 new towns, this project will show how our environment can be radically reimagined so that health and care can be provided within the community
- It is hoped that the success of the 10 new towns will begin a nationwide roll-out to other towns and communities
Where are the Healthy New Towns?
- Barking Riverside, London
- Barton, Oxford
- Bicester, Oxfordshire
- Cranbrook, Devon
- Darlington, County Durham
- Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent
- Halton Lea, Runcorn
- Northstowe, Cambridgeshire
- Whitehill & Bordon, Hampshire
- Whyndyke Garden Village, Fylde
A Healthy New Town example: Darlington
Darlington, County Durham have committed to building 3,600 new homes across 3 sites from 2017 to 2025. These homes will be created both from regenerating existing housing and building new developments.
In Darlington 68.3% of adults are overweight or obese compared with 62% across the rest of England. Because of this, all of the new houses have to be within a 5-10 minute walk from shops with healthy food choices and a 5-10 minute walk from a park or green space.
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