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01 Mar

The NHS' #HealthyNewTowns

We are not even a quarter through 2016, but it is clear that the NHS has been a hot topic of conversation as well as making the headlines.  While most of this relates to shortages, cuts and other financial matters, a news bulletin I heard on my drive to work this morning prompted me to do a little research when I arrived at the office.   “NHS England is working with ten housing developments to shape the health of communities, and to rethink how health and care services can be delivered”.

Today (Tuesday 1st March) after completing a stringent selection process, the NHS announced ten demonstrator sites they will be working with, supported by Public Health England (PHE).  This marks the first time that the NHS has actively entered the ‘urban planning’ arena. The ten Healthy New Town demonstrator sites are:

  • Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks;
  • Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units;
  • Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone;
  • Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site;
  • Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units;
  • Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units;
  • Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 13,000 new homes planned;
  • Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years; and
  • Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.


The initiative seeks to enable NHS England to demonstrate their commitment to dramatically improving public health, and to “integrate health and care services, as new places are built and take shape”.  The NHS linked this to the government’s desire for over 200,000 new homes in England every year. Expressions of Interest from developments across the country were subsequently invited.  The ten selected developments equate to 76,000 new homes with a potential capacity for 170,000 residents.

‘The Forward View into Action: Registering interest to join the healthy new towns programme’ prospectus was published further to the NHS Five Year Forward View (October 2014).  These feature three gaps the health service must close in order to be sustainable into the future which are as follows:

  1. Close the health gap by radically upgrading our prevention measures;
  2. Through the New Models of Care programme, the NHS and its partners need to take steps towards closing the car gap by redesigning how health and social care services are delivered (something the prospectus claims has started being addressed already); and
  3. By 2020/21, close the financial gap by delivering efficiencies of 2-3% across the NHS’s entire funding base.

So in terms of the planning of these developments, some of which are already being built, how could they differ from any other development?  The intention is that these earmarked developments will include, as outlined by a BBC article, “virtual access to GP services, safe green spaces to play and fast-food-free zones around schools”.   Another feature is that the environment will influence some developments such as Bicester which is proposed to be a development comprising 6,000 zero-carbon homes and cycle networks.  “Dementia-friendly” communities have also been considered which could be created through easier-to-navigate roads with more signs.


In a speech he is to give to the Kings Fund, Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of the NHS) is to point to facts including the Building Research Establishment having published a report on the cost of poor quality housing to the NHS.  The report estimates that 3.5 million homes in England suffer from what are considered to be “serious hazards” such as damp and pests and these lead to health problems which cost the NHS a minimum of £1.4bn each year.  Factors such as this form the foundations for this NHS initiative in the prognosis that housing and development can promote and improve health.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share with NJL, drop us a comment or tweet.  The NHS is also welcoming comments via or follow #Healthynewtowns on Twitter.


Pictures sourced from:

Houses by Eric Alllx Rogers via flickr

Construction by TriangleREVA via flickr

Park scene by Julia


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