Health kick for new estate named in fat-busting pilot

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  • 1,400 homes development picked as one of 10 “healthy towns” to fight resort’s obesity crisis
  • Plans were approved last year for a £200m ‘Garden City’ which would include a school, shops and a health centre
  • More than 83,000 adults in Blackpool are classed as overweight
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One of Blackpool’s biggest ever housing estates is to be designated a Healthy New Town in a bid to fight the flab on the coast.

The 91-hectare 1,400-home Whyndyke Farm development, skirted by the M55, Preston New Road and Mythop Road, has been named as one of 10 national pilot sites by the King’s Fund.

Steps will include fast-food-free zones near schools, cycle lanes, sports pitches and an ethos of healthy living in the developments.

The sites centre on building a healthy community, with education, health, work and ‘neighbourliness’ at their core.

The health service will have a role in planning the new towns, which will provide more than 76,000 homes across England, and will use them to test out possible solutions to tackle obesity and help people with dementia.

Options to be tested at the sites include designing safe and appealing green spaces and creating “dementia-friendly” streets.

NHS England said it will bring together clinicians, designers and technology experts to “re-imagine” how health and care can be delivered across these new communities.

Work on the site is expected to start next year with approximately 20 hectares of the site designated for employment use and reducing journeys to work.

Allan Oldfield, chief executive of Fylde Council, one of the parties in the King’s Fund bid, said: “Although technology and creative innovation will feature in the design of the Healthy New Town it is essential that the people who make the community have ownership.

“Healthy lifestyle options will be easy opportunities built into the design of the new town. We will be looking at leisure, health and work facilities all connected sensitively and in a way that will minimise car use and give priority to cycling, walking and public transport.

“We’re very excited at the possibilities for a new type of community on the Fylde coast. Much of the detailed work now has to start with the commitment from the NHS to bring the best knowledge, research, advice and specialists in a way that will benefit us all.”

Alban Cassidy, chartered town planner and environmental consultant at Cassidy + Ashton, said: “As the only private organisation to be involved in the bid, it’s great to see for-profit and not-for-profit organisations working in unison to actively improve the standard of health.

“We worked on the project for several years before it gained planning permission and I’m absolutely delighted that it’s now achieved Healthy New Town status.

“What makes this particular initiative unique is that the 225-acre, 91-hectare scheme straddles both Fylde and Blackpool Council boundaries, meaning the two local authorities will be working together to place health at the heart of the community and set the bar to achieving healthier lifestyles.”

Peter Tinson, NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group chief operating officer, said: “We are thrilled that a development of this nature will be coming to the Fylde coast.

“We need to find new and innovative ways of easing the pressure on health services to ensure everyone can access them when they need them the most.

“By creating these Healthy New Towns, we will be continuing to promote health living among residents and ensuring people stay as fit and well as possible.

“This is an exciting time for us.”

Coun Amy Cross, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Reducing Health Inequalities, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to put healthy living at the heart of this new town.

“We recently were the first council in the country to sign up to a declaration on healthy weight and creating a healthy community like this again puts us at the forefront of public health initiatives in England.

“We need to make it easier for people to take the healthy option, from choosing a bottle of water instead of fizzy pop, to creating nicer environments where people choose to walk.”

Detailed work will now begin into provision of cycle paths and walkways, neighbourhood centres, educational provision – possibly a school incorporated into a neighbourhood centre – sports pitches and local shops focused on a healthy lifestyle.

Blackpool has some of the poorest health and lowest life expectancy in the country amid a catalogue of serious health problems, according to the resort’s Public Health Annual Report.

It revealed more than one in four reception age children are now classed as obese. By the time they are 10 or 11, the figure is one in three.

The figure is no better among adults, with 29,000 people in Blackpool now classed as clinically obese.

The next step in the healthy town programme is to formally establish a partnership between the various public- and private-sector bodies to work on the detailed proposal. The work itself is expected to take 15 to 20 years to build.

The King’s Fund submission stated that technology will feature in keeping people healthy – one proposal is to put electronic waymarkers in lamp-posts so that people can work out how many calories they have burned while walking in a Healthy New Town.

In a speech to The King’s Fund, NHS England chief executive Simon 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.

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

Mr Stevens will also highlight the high prevalence of obesity among youngsters, the small proportion of children that play outdoors compared to their parents and the high levels of physical inactivity among British adults.

He will use his speech to name the sites picked to be part of the programme, which are located around the country in: Whitehill and Bordon in Hampshire, Cranbrook in Devon, a new development in Darlington, Barking Riverside in London, Halton Lea in Runcorn, Cheshire, a new community in Bicester, Oxfordshire, Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent and Barton Park in Oxford.