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NHS England chief reveals location of first 10 'healthy new towns'

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NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has announced the locations of 10 “healthy new towns” – communities across England where health and wellbeing will be “designed into” their construction with the help of clinical experts.

The Healthy New Towns programme, a long awaited plank of the NHS Five-Year Forward View, will see areas adopt planning policies that could include fast food free zones near schools and dementia friendly streets.

“Some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges can all be influenced by the quality of our built and natural environment”

Kevin Fenton

The programme, run in conjunction with Public Health England, aims to join up design of the built environment with health and care services.

NHS England plans to bring in clinicians, designers and technology experts to shape care provision in each location.

Mr Stevens used a speech at the Kings Fund in London on Tuesday morning to outline how these sites will be designed in order to maximise residents’ health outcomes and prevent conditions, such as obesity.

The 10 healthy new town sites

  • Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – construction of 3,350 new homes
  • Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 homes will be built
  • Darlington – 2,500 residential units planned
  • Barking Riverside, east London – 10,800 homes
  • Whyndyke Farm, Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 homes
  • Halton Lea, Runcorn, Cheshire – 800 homes
  • Bicester, Oxfordshire – 393 homes
  • Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes
  • Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes
  • Barton Park, Oxford – 885 homes

Ideas that could become features of these newly designed health economies include more “digitally enabled” primary care services, green spaces and dementia-friendly street design.

“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school”

Simon Stevens

Mr Stevens said: “The much needed push to kick start affordable housing across England creates a golden opportunity for the NHS to help promote health and keep people independent.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said. “We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

“And we want new ways of providing new types of digitally enabled local health services that share physical infrastructure and staff with schools and community groups,” he added.

A total of 114 bids were received for healthy new town status drawn up by local authorities, housing associations, NHS organisations and housing developers.

NHS England will spend the next six months working with each site to finalise the details of their plans. It is understood that the national body will fund project managers to oversee each scheme.

Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s national director for health and wellbeing, 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.”

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