Published: 08:08, 01 March 2016
| Updated: 09:52, 01 March 2016
Ebbsfleet garden city is one of 10 new housing developments earmarked to become “healthy new towns” under an NHS scheme.
The idea is for homes to be built in a way that will encourage healthy living and help address serious public health issues such as obesity and dementia.
Plans could include fast-food-free zones around schools, homes with virtual access to GP services and safe green spaces for children to play and exercise in.
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Other initiatives could include development to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, with easier-to-navigate roads with more signs.
The money to build the developments will come from council budgets and private partners rather than the NHS.
“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school - rather than just exercising their fingers on video games...” - Simon Stevens, NHS England
Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said a there was a “golden opportunity” for the NHS to help town planners promote health and keep people living independently.
“As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we’ll kick ourselves if in 10 years’ time we look back having missed the opportunity to ‘design out’ the obesogenic environment, and ‘design in’ health and wellbeing,” he said.
“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school - rather than just exercising their fingers on video games.”
“We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, the national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges – such as obesity, mental health issues, physical inactivity and the needs of an ageing population – can all be influenced by the quality of our built and natural environment. The considerate design of spaces and places is critical to promote good health.”
While the idea has been broadly welcomed, with councils facing serious funding shortfalls, how the schemes will be financed is not clear.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson welcomed the news, saying: "This is a great opportunity to help shape Ebbsfleet in a way which will promote healthy living. We need to build communities where children want to play out rather than sit at home playing on electronic devices."
"I want Ebbsfleet to be somewhere that people aspire to live in and this will help. This is just one part though of a package of measures and infrastructure that is needed to make Ebbsfleet successful."
Michael Cassidy chairman of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation said: “This is an important milestone in the development of Ebbsfleet Garden City and we are delighted to be part of an initiative that will encourage healthy lifestyles in the 21st century."
“We look forward to working with NHS England as we drive forward our Garden City. Having this status is a positive move forward with all that it can bring in health care innovation in developing communities.”
He added that the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation would help create opportunities for play, sport and recreation including connected cycle tracks, open air gyms, dog walking trails and schools that children and parents could walk to.
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