Revealed: Britain’s unhealthiest high streets
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Revealed: Britain’s unhealthiest high streets

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High streets in the North and Midlands are most likely to feature businesses that are harmful to the public’s health, with Preston crowned Britain’s unhealthiest high street, according to a new report.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has published a league table ranking 70 of the UK’s major towns and cities based on the proportion of businesses found in their main retail area that either support or harm the public’s health.

The league table forms part of RSPH’s Health on the High Street campaign which aims to make high streets healthier by encouraging businesses to take steps to promote health, while also giving further powers to local authorities in the areas of planning and licensing. Based on public and expert opinion, RSPH has identified bookmakers, payday loan shops, fast food outlets and tanning salons as having the most negative impact on health, while gyms, leisure centres, pharmacies, and health services are deemed to have the most positive impact.

Businesses were scored by more than 2,000 members of the public and experts, on the extent to which they encourage healthy choices; promote social interaction; provide access to health advice; and promote positive mental wellbeing. Based on the scoring and the prevalence of these different businesses in each town or city, they were ranked.

“While our ranking of towns and cities is by no means a reflection on whether these areas are generally healthy or unhealthy, our research does find higher concentrations of unhealthy businesses exist in places which already experience high levels of deprivation and premature mortality,” said Royal Society for Public Health CEO Shirley Cramer CBE.

“We recognise that businesses investing in High Streets are important for local economies; but this shouldn’t be at any price.”

Promoting active and healthy environments to improve the wellbeing of the wider popularity is an idea that appears to be gaining traction. Yesterday’s (25 March) recommendation from the Health Select Committee report for redesigning environments to promote physical activity, chimed with a recent opinion piece from Health Club Management editor Kate Cracknell which called for policymakers to embrace positive changes that embed activity into our daily lives.

Following the publication of its league table, the RSPH is now calling on the next government, to introduce a range of measures to make high streets more health promoting. These include giving greater planning powers to local authorities to limit numbers of betting shops, payday lenders and fast food outlets; mandatory food hygiene ratings linked to calorie and nutrition labelling for fast food outlets; and powers for councils to tailor business rates based to encourage healthier outlets and discourage those that are detrimental to health.

Places with the unhealthiest retail areas:

1. Preston

2. Middlesbrough3. Coventry

4. Blackpool5. Northampton

6. Wolverhampton7. Grimsby

8. Huddersfield9. Stoke on Trent

10. Eastbourne

Places with the healthiest retail areas:

1. Shrewsbury2. Ayr

3. Salisbury4. Perth

5. Hereford6. Carlisle

7. Cambridge8. Cheltenham

9. York10. Bristol

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High streets in the North and Midlands are most likely to feature businesses that are harmful to the public’s health, with Preston crowned Britain’s unhealthiest high street, according to a new report.
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