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Revealed: Walsall and Wolverhampton named among most 'unhealthy' places to live

By Andrew Turton | Walsall | Health | Published:

Do you think too many bookies, takeaway outlets and off-licences make for an unhealthy place to live?

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High streets hosting too many "unhealthy" businesses like betting shops, fast food outlets and off-licences could be significantly shortening the lives of locals, according to a new report.

Walsall and Wolverhampton have been named among the 10 most 'unhealthy towns' in the UK in the latest findings.

Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that residents living in towns with lots of bookies and off-licences die younger than those with plenty of libraries and pharmacies.

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Its ranking of 70 high streets found those living in the top 10 healthy areas lived an average of two-and-a-half years longer than those with the 10 unhealthiest high streets.

Grimsby was crowned the unhealthiest town, followed by Walsall and Blackpool.

Wolverhampton joined Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Northampton, Bolton, Huddersfield and Bradford in the bottom ten.

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  • Grimsby
  • Walsall
  • Blackpool
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunderland
  • Northampton
  • Bolton
  • Wolverhampton
  • Huddersfield
  • Bradford

The Health on the High Street: Running on Empty report used a scale giving points for pubs and bars, dentists, opticians, libraries, leisure centres, museums and galleries, pharmacies, coffee shops and vape shops.

Points were deducted for betting shops, payday lenders, fast food outlets, off licences, tanning salons and empty shops.

Coming top in the healthy stakes was Edinburgh followed by Canterbury and Taunton.

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Wolverhampton came 8th in the list

Also on the list were Cheltenham, York, Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Exeter and Cambridge.

London's many high streets were ranked separately, with Seven Sisters Road in Haringey, Roman Road West in Bow and Thornton Heath in Croydon coming bottom.

Muswell Hill in Haringey, Hornchurch in Havering and Pinner in Harrow were deemed the healthiest high streets in the capital.

The list was first published in 2015 and was updated this year to reflect the changing face of the British high street.

It added off-licences and the growing number of empty shops to the list of negative features on a high street, while cafes and vape shops were added to the positive influences.

Coming top in the healthy stakes was Edinburgh followed by Canterbury and Taunton.

  • Edinburgh
  • Canterbury
  • Taunton
  • Cheltenham
  • York
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Eastbourne
  • Exeter
  • Cambridge

Also on the list were Cheltenham, York, Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Exeter and Cambridge. The research found that 4,000 new fast food outlets had opened across the UK in the past five years - predominantly in poorer areas.

Deprived areas now have five times more fast food shops than wealthy neighbourhoods, the RSPH said.

It showed that vape shops have doubled to 2,000 in the last three years, while the number of empty shops on the high street has increased from below 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

The findings come in the wake of the Chancellor's announcement in the autumn budget of several measures aimed at helping ailing high street shops facing decimation by their online rivals.

Philip Hammond announced that 500,000 small retailers will see a third knocked off their business rates, while a digital services tax will be levied at tech giants with global revenues above £500 million.

A £650 million fund was also announced to improve transport access for struggling town centres and to turn empty shops into homes and offices.

Walsall was 2nd in the list

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH, said: "While the face of the British high street continues to change, the environmental and economic factors that influence inequalities in health outcomes across the country remain stubbornly intractable.

"Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.

"Reshaping these high streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance."

She added: "While we broadly welcome the package of measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week, we are concerned that they do not go far enough."

She said local authorities were unable to reshape their high streets to promote positive businesses due to ongoing funding cuts.

Kieron Boyle - chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' Charity which works to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark - welcomed the research.

He said: "There are huge opportunities to be creative in improving the nation's health.

"This work highlights the important interplay of environmental factors on our health and illustrates how many others, beyond the health and care system, can play a role in supporting people's wellbeing."

Andrew Turton

By Andrew Turton
Digital Journalist

Digital journalist based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton. Interested in breaking news and social media. Get in touch on Twitter @aturton_star or andrew.turton@expressandstar.co.uk

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