10 'Healthy New Towns' to promote health and wellbeing

Government announces 10 housing developments that will enhance wellbeing and improve health for communities

Clinicians, designers and technology experts will work together to create 10 innovative ‘Healthy New Towns’ aimed at promoting health and helping people to live more independently.

The initiative was announced last week by NHS England and involves the creation of 10 new housing zones offering virtual access to GP services, safe green spaces to play, and fast-food-free zones around schools.

This innovative programme will inform our thinking and planning of everyday environments to improve health for generations to come

The places earmarked to test the idea include existing villages in the South West, London and the North West and two new developments in Cambridgeshire and Darlington.

The money to fund their development will come from council budgets and private partners rather than the NHS.

Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said a much-needed push to kick-start affordable housing across England had created a ‘golden opportunity’ for the NHS to help town planners promote health and independence.

He added: “As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we'll kick ourselves if in 10 years' time we look back having missed the opportunity to 'design out' the obesogenic environment, and 'design in' health and wellbeing.

As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we'll kick ourselves if in 10 years' time we look back having missed the opportunity to 'design out' the obesogenic environment, and 'design in' health and wellbeing

"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."

Expressions of interest in the Healthy New Towns programme were invited last summer and attracted 114 applications from local authorities, housing associations, NHS organisations and housing developers. After a rigorous selection process and presentations from the shortlisted projects, the first 10 sites have now been chosen. They are:

  • Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire - 3,350 homes on a former army barracks, including ‘care-ready homes’ adapted for people with long-term conditions
  • Darlington - 2,500 homes across three linked sites in the town's ‘eastern growth zone’, including a ‘virtual care home’
  • Cranbrook, Devon - 8,000 homes, with healthy lifestyles taught in schools from a young age. Cranbrook is already thought to have three times the national average of under-fives
  • Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent - up to 15,000 homes in the first garden city for 100 years
  • Barking Riverside - 10,800 homes on London's largest brownfield site
  • Bicester, Oxfordshire - 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 13,000 planned homes
  • Northstowe, Cambridgeshire - 10,000 homes on former military land
  • Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire - 1,400 homes
  • Barton Park, Oxford - 885 homes
  • Halton Lea, Runcorn - 800 homes

The move will help the NHS to rethink how care is currently delivered, in line with the aims set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

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

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, 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.

“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.

“We are proud to have played an active role in the development of the Healthy New Towns programme and we will continue to support the delivery of high-quality, healthy environments.”