Urban design 'makes people fat'
Health and wellbeing must be at the top of the town planning agenda in the future, a leading academic has warned
Newcastle University’s director of planning and urban design Tim Townshend said future developments must redress the balance and encourage people to walk rather than drive in order to reverse the UK’s growing obesity trend.
Townshend, who has co-edited a book examining the effects of low density, car-orientated suburbs in the US and Australia and their effects on locals’ health, said the well-being of local residents must be put in the forefront of town planners minds ‘before it’s too late’.
‘Our urban landscape is full of shopping malls and fast food restaurants, escalators and huge car parks with people battling to get the space closest to the doors so they don’t have to walk very far,’ he said.
‘These environments are simply not designed for people to walk around in. We need to think seriously about what kind of environment we are creating for ourselves and have a sensible debate about what’s acceptable and what’s not in our towns and cities.
‘Health needs to be back on the town planning agenda before it’s too late.’
Townshend said more green spaces, less graffiti and improved public transport links would all go some way to stemming the obesity epidemic.
‘We need to provide more green spaces - how many new parks do we build? Obesity is the biggest social and health problem we face and it will take a holistic approach to create new, healthier neighbourhoods with health professionals working alongside planners, designers and policy makers,’ he said.