Payday lenders, bookies and takeaways were today blamed for making Blackpool one of the unhealthiest town centres in the country.
Experts have called for more powers for councils to clamp down on shops that are putting health at risk.
The scale of a number of these problems is severe. The bookmakers are a particular concern.Coun Eddie Collett
A study, published today by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), looks at how well high street retailers promote healthy lifestyles.
It found Blackpool was the fourth worst of the 70 towns and cities surveyed.
Coun Eddie Collett, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “This is exactly what we said would happen when we were bidding for the casino.
“We have ended up with corner shop bookmakers and not destination gambling.”
He said the resort has now been left with problem gambling without any of the tourism benefits of a major casino.
The RSPH study scored each town according to the number of shops it considers healthy compared to those it considers unhealthy – with Preston ranking worst of all.
Pharmacies, leisure centres and libraries all scored well, according to people it asked – as did pubs.
Although the experts and members of the public surveyed agreed pubs discourage healthy choices, they were considered to promote social interaction.
However, tanning salons joined takeaways, betting shops and payday lenders – the worst offenders of them all – on the unhealthy list.
The RSPH said its findings highlight the need to restrict how many of a certain type of shop a town can have, as well as giving councils the power to block unwanted retailers.
Coun Collett today backed those calls, saying: “The powers we have got we are using as robustly as we can. We are using what influence we have to clamp down on these things.”
He said the council has taken action over payday lenders, setting up a credit union, and recently carried out a spot-check of the resort’s tanning salons.
He added: “The scale of a number of these problems is severe. The bookmakers are a particular concern.”
He also said the number of fast food shops in the resort was “not ideal” but added that hot dogs stalls and fish and chip shops were a vital part of Blackpool’s tourist appeal.
Shirley Cramer CBE, RSPH chief executive, 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.”