'Healthy New Towns' winner includes free bike obligation on developers

An initiative under which developers would be required to provide new homes with free bikes in order to cut car use and promote cycling has won a competition launched by NHS England which sought new ideas to deliver healthy towns.

Cycling: winning award entry includes supply obligation on developers
Cycling: winning award entry includes supply obligation on developers

NHS England's Healthy New Towns programme was launched in March 2016, with ten housing developments chosen to put good health at the heart of urban design and planning. The aim is to reduce pressure on the NHS by rethinking lifestyles and the way health services are delivered.

One of these sites, Halton, was selected for a separate design challenge which sought entries with new ideas to deliver healthy towns.

According to NHS England, the competition attracted 34 bids from across the world, including the USA, Spain, India and Japan, but it was London-based planning research and training consultancy, Citiesmode, which most impressed judges.

Among its proposals, Citiesmode’s winning design, called Halton Connected, would see developers providing new houses and flats with free bikes in order to cut car use and promote cycling.

They would also see the use of downloadable apps that reward walking with discounts at local shops; an "urban obstacle course connecting public gym equipment and sprinting tracks marked out on safe pavements"; and the conversion of a car park into a new community square and outdoor cinema.

A statement from NHS England said that the "final Halton Lea masterplan and delivery strategy is due at the beginning of January 2018".

Planning asked NHS England whether the competition proposals would be included in this document, but it had yet to respond at time of publication.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "If there’s to be a much needed wave of new housebuilding across England, let’s 'design-in' health from the start.

"These practical designs for Halton point the way, uniting young and old in in thinking through the sort of communities we want for the future. The NHS makes no apologies for weighing in with good ideas on how the how the built environment can encourage healthy towns and supportive neighbourhoods."

Sara Dilmamode, director of Citiesmode, added: "We are of course absolutely delighted that our proposal was selected and we're keen to work with NHS England and its delivery partners on projects that put health at the heart of planning."

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