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Better town planning could save £1bn a year, says RIBA

The RIBA’s latest report into the impact of cities on health has blamed lack of green spaces and poor city planning for the UK’s current obesity epidemic

Looking at the England’s most populated cities; Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, the RIBA report has found a link between housing density, lack of green space and public health.

England’s ‘healthiest’ local authorities have almost half the housing density and 20 per cent more green space than the least healthy ones, while almost a quarter of people across the nine cities investigated said they would be encouraged to walk more if public spaces were more attractive.

The research found that across the nine cities 59 per cent of inhabitants were not doing the recommended levels of exercise. But respondents said they would be encouraged to walk more often if pathways were designed to be safer and green spaces were more attractive, showing, claimed RIBA, that quality of design has a part to play in levels of exercise.

The RIBA is calling on local authorities to integrate public health and planning policies for a joined up approach to health.

Cities with less than 50 per cent green space and housing density of more than 5 per cent should produce an action plan for making their streets and parks more attractive, RIBA said.

RIBA president Stephen Hodder said: ‘At a time of austerity and increased concern with physical and mental wellbeing, it’s shocking to discover that just by making public health a priority when planning cities, we can save the country upwards of £1bn annually though reduced obesity-related healthcare costs.

‘With responsibility for public healthcare devolved now from central government to local authorities, it’s vital that planners and developers take the lead and ensure healthier cities.’

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