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According to the experts, English people don’t know how to look after themselves. The English, says the Health Survey for England, have some of the unhealthiest lifestyles in Europe, with rising obesity rates and the high number of Brits happy to drink at least eight pints in one sitting marked out as the two biggest worries.
Lucky, then, that the people paid to make us better are now advising developers on how to build towns that will make us healthier. Ten of these “healthy new towns” are going to be built around England, with the NHS acting as planning consultants in a bid to improve community health. This “cutting edge approach” includes plans to lay non-slip paving stone to reduce accidents and build 1960s-themed cafes in an attempt to make dementia patients feel at home.
This got us thinking about what it takes to build an ideal town: should pubs be on every residential corner or on the high street? How many trendy coffee shops are too many? Are libraries still a thing? We didn’t have the answers to any of those questions, so we spoke to Matt Richards – a planner at property consultancy Bidwells – to find out what makes the perfect town.
VICE: Hi Matt. What would plans for the perfect town include?
Matt Richards: Walkability – which means that all the facilities you would expect are within an easy walking distance, so people can use their legs and get some exercise. There would be less of a need for a person to be sat in their car all day.You need a decent centre with good amenities available – shops, restaurants and cafes. These also provide employment so people can work in the town as well as live there.
You also need access to green spaces within a 10-minute walking distance. Decent architecture is essential – if you look at towns like Oxford and Bath, its their attractive architecture that turns them into a place where people would like to visit. And when a town looks great, people foster a sense of pride about it.
In terms of housing, there must be a range of neighbourhoods so you don’t create ghettos. Don’t lump all types of housing in one distinct area – creating a mixed population will contribute to the success of the place. […]