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Health needs key to our urban planning claims Cumbria health chief

Posted by Lindy on October 28, 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Cumbria’s most senior public health expert will call for modern health needs to be a prime consideration in all future planning decisions. Planning decisions can impact on the local population’s long-term health. By looking back in history, it is possible to see how the two can work together successfully.

Professor John Ashton said: “Public health and town planning were like Siamese twins in the 19th century when they were tackling slum conditions. That was really the birth of modern town planning. It took the form of zoning – separating areas where people lived from the factories and their noxious pollution. The issues they were addressing were to deal with the type of industries around then. But since the war there has been a real drift away from that relationship between planning and public health. Part of what I will be calling for is to revisit that.”

Prof Ashton wants to see urban areas designed to tackle modern day health problems. “That includes looking at things like housing type, location, how people move around – should it be dominated by the motor car or have provision for walking and cycling? – and open spaces for recreation.”

He used examples such as reopening the bridge across the River Eden to provide to provide new walk and cycle routes into town, creating small play areas in each community so that all families can access them easily, and creating more fitness areas for the elderly – like the outdoor gym in Carlisle’s Belle Vue.

“There is evidence from Japan that if elderly people live within walking distance of green space then they live longer than those who do not. It’s about re-engineering and reshaping our urban areas, making it easier for children to walk and cycle to school,” he added.

Finally he calls for more emphasis on healthy social lives – creating meeting places to replace those, such as old-fashioned markets and laundry areas that no longer have a place in society.


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