Edinburgh tops list of ‘healthiest high streets’ in UK

Written by Tom Freeman on 2 November 2018 in News

Royal Society for Public Health calls for more support for local independent businesses and recognition for the social benefits of pubs

Edinburgh Old Town - Pixabay

Edinburgh has topped a list of the least unhealthy high streets in the UK in a report which warns a rise in bookmakers and fast food outlets are driving poor health outcomes.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked 70 major towns and cities for the quality of their high streets.

Grimsby, Walsall and Blackpool are the towns with the unhealthiest high streets, according to the report.

The report counted payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets as having a negative impact on health, while leisure centres, pharmacies, dentists, libraries, museums and art galleries are seen as positives.

Off licences were deemed unhealthy, but pubs were counted as positive for providing social connections outwith home and work.

The RSPH said the UK and local governments should look at how local businesses are taxed to encourage a healthier town environment, and more ways should be found to support local independent retailers.

It also recommended other UK nations follow Scotland in introducing minimum unit pricing so that moderate drinking in pubs replaces isolated home drinking.

“It is right that the social value of pubs is recognised that they are protected from being destroyed or converted to other uses without planning permission being sought,” the report said.

Local high streets have declined in value with the advent of internet shopping, and some towns in Scotland have looked to build on local arts and heritage assets to encourage people back to their high streets.

Edinburgh was the only Scottish city listed among the overall top 10 best or worst performing in the research.

However Ayr was noted for having 22.5 per cent of its shop units lying empty, the fifth highest ratio in the UK.

Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive, said: “At a time when the high street is struggling and every week brings news of another household name going into administration, it is time for a fresh look at what the high street means to us and what it might be like in the future.

“At RSPH we believe that our high streets have an important role to play in developing sustainable communities, but for this to happen, health needs to be prioritised as planners and other stakeholders make decisions about its future.”

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