High Streets Initiative · 2 November 2018

Ranked: The UK’s least healthy high streets

The vacancy rate for high street units has increased from under 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has published a league table which ranks 70 of the UK’s major cities and towns based on the number of health-promoting businesses on their high streets.

Outlets such as leisure centres, libraries and pharmacies achieve high scores on the RSPH’s so-called ‘Richter scale of health’. On the other hand, bookmakers, tanning shops, empty retail premises and fast food outlets all achieve low marks.

Based on these criteria, the Lincolnshire town of Grimsby has the least healthy high street in Britain, followed by Walsall, Blackpool and Stoke-on-Trent. The country’s healthiest high streets can be found in Edinburgh, Canterbury, Taunton and Shrewsbury.

The average life expectancy for people living around the top 10 healthiest high streets is two and a half years longer than for populations in the least healthy areas.

The RSPH report notes that the number of fast food shops in UK’s most deprived communities increased by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017. This is five times faster than in the most affluent areas.

The vacancy rate for high street food and retail units has also increased from under 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017. The RSPH says that reshaping the country’s high streets is the key to improving public health outcomes in the country’s least prosperous regions.

“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,” says Shirley Cramer, the organisation’s chief executive. “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.”

The RSPH has now suggested a raft of measures to help reinvigorate unhealthy high streets. It has called for the Treasury to review how businesses are taxed to ensure local shops are not at an unfair disadvantage when compared to online retailers.

In addition, it has asked Facebook and Google to offer discounted advertising opportunities to independent, health-promoting businesses.

The top 10 “unhealthiest” British high streets are:

  1. Grimsby
  2. Walsall
  3. Blackpool
  4. Stoke-On-Trent
  5. Sunderland
  6. Northampton
  7. Bolton
  8. Wolverhampton
  9. Huddersfield
  10. Bradford

The top 10 “healthiest” British high streets are:

  1. Edinburgh
  2. Canterbury
  3. Taunton
  4. Shrewsbury
  5. Cheltenham
  6. York
  7. Brighton & Hove
  8. Eastbourne
  9. Exeter
  10. Cambridge

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Jennifer is a reporter for Business Advice.

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