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Unhealthy high streets shorten your life

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If your high street has too many betting shops, fast food outlets and off-licences, it could shorten your life, according to a report.

The Royal Society for Public Health ranked 70 high streets to find that those in the top 10 healthy areas lived an average of 2.5 years longer than those in the 10 unhealthiest high streets.

The research gave points for dentists, opticians, libraries, leisure centres, museums and galleries, pharmacies, coffee shops and, perhaps surprisingly pubs, bars and vape shops.

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

The unhealthiest town was judged to be Grimsby, followed by Walsall and Blackpool.

Also in the worst 10 were Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Northampton, Bolton, Wolverhampton, Huddersfield and Bradford.

The healthiest were Edinburgh, Canterbury and then Taunton.

Also included were Cheltenham, York, Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, Exeter and Cambridge.

London high streets were given separate rankings – Muswell Hill in Haringey, Hornchurch in Havering and Pinner in Harrow were deemed the healthiest high streets in the capital.

Seven Sisters Road in Haringey, Roman Road West in Bow and Thornton Heath in Croydon were the unhealthiest.

The research also found that 4,000 new fast food outlets opened across the UK in the past five years, mostly in poorer areas, which have five times as many fast food shops as wealthy areas.

The number of vape shops has doubled to 2,000 in the last three years and the number of empty shops has gone from less than 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

The news comes as high street retailers struggle with a combination of higher costs and weaker consumer spending.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the budget that 500,000 small retailers will knock a third off their business rates, while tech companies with global revenues over £500m will get a digital services tax.

A £650m fund was also announced to improve transport into town centres and to re-use empty shops.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH, said the rankings “illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy”.

She added: “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.

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

She also said that the chancellor’s measures were welcome but did not go far enough and that local authorities cannot reshape their high streets to promote positive businesses due to lack of funding.

The top 10 “unhealthiest” high streets:

  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” high streets:

  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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