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The 10 unhealthiest high streets in the UK

3 min read

26 March 2015

Former deputy editor

A study from the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) has revealed the places in the UK with the unhealthiest and healthiest high streets.

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The research follows a survey on 25 March that found 34 per cent of British employees believe “companies have a moral responsibility to help them lead a fit and healthy lifestyle”.

RSPH’s findings are part of the Health on the High Street campaign to make the country’s high streets healthier, which is designed to encourage businesses to promote wellbeing, while empowering local authorities with planning and licensing opportunities.

Opinions from the public and experts have revealed bookmakers, payday loan shops, fast food outlets and tanning salons have the most negative impact on health. 

As such, the top ten places with the unhealthiest retail areas:

1. Preston
2. Middlesbrough
3. Coventry
4. Blackpool
5. Northampton
6. Wolverhampton
7. Grimsby
8. Huddersfield
9. Stoke on Trent
10. Eastbourne

Shirley Cramer, CEO, Royal Society for Public Health, said: “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. We recognise that businesses investing in High Streets are important for local economies; but this shouldn’t be at any price.”

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Meanwhile pharmacies, leisure centres, and health services were found to have the most positive impact on health.

The top ten places with the healthiest retail areas:

1. Shrewsbury
2. Ayr
3. Salisbury
4. Perth
5. Hereford
6. Carlisle
7. Cambridge
8. Cheltenham
9. York
10. Bristol

Following the study, the RSPH wants the next government to ensure the high streets promote more health initiatives, including:

  • Prevention of excessive amounts of betting shops, payday lenders and fast food chains
  • Public health criteria to be a stipulation of licensing for businesses of all types
  • Food hygiene ratings linked to calorie and nutrition in fast food outlets
  • A maximum of five per cent of each type of business on a high street to provide affordable options while avoiding over-saturation 
  • Legislation to enable local councils to set their own differential business rates to encourage healthier outlets, thus discouraging those that are unhealthy.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said: “These numbers and the towns identified are not surprising. The last five years has seen fundamental structural changes happening with many traditional high street occupiers reducing store numbers and moving out of town. The gaps created have been filled by the likes of bookmakers, payday loan shops, fast food and tanning which RSPH identifies as unhealthy.

“There have been some exceptions to this where we have seen the number of juice bars and gyms increase significantly but the balance is still very much in what RSPH defines as the unhealthy uses.”

Image via Shutterstock.