NHS unveils 10 new towns to promote healthy living

Ten “healthy” new housing developments in England are to be built under an NHS scheme aimed at tackling the nation’s obesity, dementia and general illness problems.

Plans include homes with virtual access to GP services, safe green spaces to play and fast-food-free zones around schools.

The money to build the developments will come from council budgets and private partners rather than the NHS.

Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said there is a "golden opportunity" for the NHS to help town planners promote health and keep people living independently.

He 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 ten 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.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, 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. The considerate design of spaces and places is critical to promote good health. This innovative programme will inform our thinking and planning of everyday environments to improve health for generations to come.”

Some of the developments are already being built, but others will not be completed until 2030. The healthy development sites are:

•Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks. A new care campus will co-locate ‘care-ready homes’ specially designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.

•Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units. Data suggests that Cranbrook has three times the national average of 0-4 year olds and will look at how prevention and healthy lifestyles can be taught in schools from a young age.

•Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone. Darlington is developing a ‘virtual care home’ offer where a group of homes with shared facilities are configured to link directly into a digital care hub, avoiding institutionalisation in nursing homes.

•Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site.

•Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units.

•Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units.

•Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 1300 new homes planned.

•Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land.

•Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years.

•Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.