Ten 'healthy new towns' to test solutions to key healthcare challenges

The planned garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent is among 10 sites that have been selected to deliver the country's first 'healthy new towns' that aim to test creative solutions for the key healthcare challenges of the 21st century.

Ebbsfleet: One of 10 sites picked for the Healthy New Towns programme
Ebbsfleet: One of 10 sites picked for the Healthy New Towns programme

NHS England’s Healthy New Town programme, supported by Public Health England, seeks to give the NHS a role in helping shape the way new sites develop. It will look at how key challenges, including obesity, dementia and community cohesion, can be tackled.

More than 100 expressions of interest were made by local authorities, housing associations, NHS organisations and housing developers to be part of the initiative.

The first 10 sites have now been selected, covering more than 76,000 new homes.

The initial tranche includes up to 15,000 new homes at Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent, nearly 11,000 homes on London’s largest brownfield site Barking Riverside, and 10,000 homes on former military land at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire. Others include:

- Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks.

- Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units.

- Darlington - 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone.

- Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire - 1,400 residential units.

- Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units.

- Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 1300 new homes planned.

- Barton Park, Oxford - 885 residential units.

NHS England said that the sites will test a range of potential solutions, including fast food-free zones near schools, designing safe and appealing green spaces, building dementia-friendly streets and ensuring people can access new GP services using digital technology.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the push to kick-start affordable housing across England created a "golden opportunity" for the NHS to promote health and keep people independent.

He said: "As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we'll kick ourselves if in ten years time we look back having missed the opportunity to 'design out' the obesogenic environment, and 'design in' health and wellbeing." 

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges, such as obesity and mental health issues, can be influenced by the quality of the built and natural environment.

He said: "The considerate design of spaces and places is critical to promote good health. This innovative programme will inform our thinking and planning of everyday environments to improve health for generations to come."

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