Healthy New Towns to Get Britain Cycling?

Photo: Flickr CC, Halfrain

Healthy New Towns to Get Britain Cycling?

NHS England are looking to cycling in their plans to build 10 'Healthy New Towns'. A promising step - but does it go far enough asks CTC's new campaigner Tom Guha.

For the first time, NHS England is taking an active role in town planning. The idea is to look at urban planning in tandem with health service delivery. NHS England announced the plans as a "golden opportunity to radically rethink how we live". 

The 10 'Healthy New Towns' will be built in:
•    Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire
•    Cranbrook, Devon 
•    Darlington 
•    Barking Riverside 
•    Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire 
•    Halton Lea, Runcorn 
•    Bicester, Oxon 
•    Northstowe, Cambridgeshire 
•    Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent 
•    Barton Park, Oxford

The plan has been devised to meet targets outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View, which aims to “dramatically improve population health and integrate health and care services as new places are built and take shape”. 

Across these towns more than 76,000 new homes will be built, with potential capacity for roughly 170,000 residents. 

Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive said, "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."

The plan aims to encourage independence for the elderly and disabled – and to provide new types of digitally-enabled local health services that share physical infrastructure and staff with schools and community groups. 

Crucially, the plan has outlined the need for spaces for children to play and get active outside – recognising improved cycle infrastructure as a vital step to achieving this. 

The plans are a potential milestone for taking forward the recommendations laid out in the Get Britain Cycling report, an independent report commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. 

The Get Britain Cycling report suggests a long-term ambition of increasing cycle use from its current standing of less than 2% of all journeys, to 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2050. Crucial to the report's strategy is the transformation of towns, streets and communities to be more cycle friendly.  

If the Get Britain Cycling targets were achieved, as CTC and the University of Leeds' study 'The Economic Cycle' shows, the cumulative economic benefits are estimated to be £18.6bn by 2025 and £248.3bn by 2050, with the largest economic benefits coming through health. 

We hope these Healthy Towns will show how including ‘Space for Cycling’ is good not only for the health of local communities, but also for their economies, their environment and their quality of life.”

Roger Geffen MBE
Policy Director, CTC

Recent research suggests that a third of all deaths are premature and could have been prevented by lifestyle changes, such as taking up cycling. 

The 'Healthy New Towns' plan are certainly a step in the right direction. However we now need to see this policy to be put into practice with specific funding commitments.

These 10 new towns are a fantastic start but need not be an exception to the rule. What NHS England are seeking to achieve is what all our local authorities should be aiming for, namely liveable healthy places.  

CTC’s Policy Director, Roger Geffen MBE said of the plans: 

“It makes obvious good sense to design new developments so as to promote healthy living. The Prime Minister’s support for the idea of ‘Cycle Proofing’ surely means we should be aiming to design cycle-friendliness not just into the layout of their streets and junctions, but also their links to public transport connections and to other nearby towns and villages.  

"CTC hopes these Healthy Towns will show how including ‘Space for Cycling’ is good not only for the health of local communities, but also for their economies, their environment and their quality of life.”

The real golden opportunity here is to showcase the benefits of including Space For Cycling in road planning. The "golden opportunity to radically rethink how we live" is not unique to this scheme.

Wherever building is taking place, opportunities arise. And if the government follow the recommendations outlined in the Get Britain Cycling report – opportunities abound.

To encourage this to happen we need to see a commitment at council level to the premise of CTC’s Space For Cycling campaign. The campaign supports the need for cycle-friendly streets through improved infrastructure and traffic regulations. 

To ask your local councillors to support Space For Cycling – or to find out if they already do – please check out our action page

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Just back from our first ride on route 6 and 55 round Manchester.
Some sections are great down old railway lines but the area around Salford Quays and Eccles is a farce.
An attempt has been made to make the areas cycle friendly but you find every 100-200 yds its a case of dismount, cross a road, back on, get off, lift the bike over barriers, not very good.

Compared with other places in the world such as Perth, AUS, the scheme is poor, obviously not designed by cyclists. Getting from A to B is so inefficient that its not really worth the effort.