Eastbourne has been named as one of the 10 most unhealthy town centres in the UK– the only town or city in the south to make the list.
Based on a recent study by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Eastbourne has the tenth most unhealthy high street in the country.
The league table, which ranks 70 of the UK’s major towns and cities in order of how healthy they are, is based on the proportion of businesses found in their main retail area that either support or harm the public’s health.
The league table forms part of RSPH’s Health on the High Street campaign that aims to make high streets healthier by encouraging businesses to promote health while also giving further powers to local authorities in the areas of planning and licensing.
Based on public and expert opinion, the society has identified bookmakers, payday loan shops, fast food outlets and tanning salons as having the most negative impact on health, and pharmacies, leisure centres, and health services as having the most positive impact.
Businesses were scored by more than 2,000 members of the public and experts, on the extent to which they encourage healthy choices; promote social interaction; provide access to health advice; and promote positive mental wellbeing. Based on the scoring and the prevalence of these different businesses in each town or city, they were ranked.
Our research does find higher concentrations of unhealthy businesses exist in places which already experience high levels of deprivation
Places with the unhealthiest retail areas were, in order: Preston, Middlesbrough, Coventry, Blackpool, Northampton, Wolverhampton, Grimsby, Huddersfield, Stoke on Trent and Eastbourne.
Of those ten, Eastbourne is the only town or city that doesn’t have a ‘worst’ or ‘worse than national average’ premature mortality rate.
Places with the healthiest retail areas include Shrewsbury, Salisbury, Cambridge, Bristol and York.
Christina Ewbank, chief executive of the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, has defended the town.
She said, “The shopping offer in Eastbourne is spread out over a wide area of independent retailers and national chains which include gyms, health food shops, pharmacies, art galleries, book shops and libraries, homeopathists and natural health specialists.
“To look at one small geographical area is misleading, particularly when you consider the many hundreds of people who exercise on Eastbourne seafront, on the Western Lawns and up on the South Downs on a daily basis.
“Add these walkers to the many wind surfers, kite surfers, hang-gliders, sailors, cyclists and roller skaters who enjoy the seaside and surrounding hills and Eastbourne is clearly one of the healthiest places to live and work in the UK.”
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said, “While our ranking of towns and cities is by no means a reflection on whether these areas are generally healthy or unhealthy, our research does find higher concentrations of unhealthy businesses exist in places which already experience high levels of deprivation and premature mortality.
“We recognise that businesses investing in High Streets are important for local economies; but this shouldn’t be at any price.
“The Five Year Forward View calls for us to move “further and faster” to improve the public’s health.
“This could be achieved by granting Local Authorities enhanced powers to create a rich mix of health promoting businesses on our high streets and encouraging businesses to promote healthy choices.”
The Health of the High Street campaign is now calling on the next Government to introduce a range of measures to make high streets more health promoting, including giving local authorities greater planning powers to prevent the proliferation of betting shops, payday lenders and fast food outlets, ensuring a public health criteria is a condition of licensing for all types of business and enforcing a limit of five per cent for each type of business on a high street in order to avoid oversaturation and provide affordable choice.
For more information, visit www.rsph.org.uk.