1st September Journal Column


By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The NHS have been working with ten housing developments across the country to build and shape communities.

The new proposal to build 10 ‘healthy new towns’ from Darlington to Devon, will unite public health, NHS providers and commissioners, and planning and housing development. If the news that they’re planning on building 76,000 new-build homes across England, wasn’t good enough, they’re also going to use incentives to encourage those living in them to live healthier lifestyles.

Residents could win free cinema tickets, food discounts and low-cost gym memberships if they sign up to apps that track their exercise progress, encouraging residents to be more active. If they hit exercise targets, residents could even be offered money off their supermarket bills – every little helps, especially when you’ve just bought a new-build home.

Plans include providing access to safe green spaces to play; fast-food free zones around schools; neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible; and easier access to public transport with safer cycling and pedestrian networks. There have been suggestions of ‘dementia friendly’ streets with wider pavements, fewer trip hazards and LCD moving signs to make directions easier.

In Darlington, the only North-East development (so far), there are plans to build 2,500 new homes and a group of ‘virtual care homes’, a group of homes with shared facilities will link to a digital care hub, allowing residents to live independently whilst also giving them the reassurance that help is there if they need it. The NHS can also use technology to monitor the health of residents in the ‘smart homes’.

The developments across the country range from less than 1,000 to 15,000 homes, (approximately 170,000 residents in total) and sites vary in terms of land values, socio-economic profiles, population demographics and health needs.

It’s rare for the NHS to get involved in the built environment and the fact they are, shows just how important it is that homes and neighbourhoods promote healthy lifestyles. More consideration of urban designs, new technology and wellbeing during the planning stages can help achieve this. We’re constantly crying out for new homes, so the news of over 70,000 new builds is welcome, and if they help get us healthier and fitter as a country, then it’s a win-win situation. The summer is almost over and before we know it, we’ll be back on our January diets, wishing we had these incentives to help us on our way.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.