Report claims poor design partly to blame for obesity epidemic

Poor urban design is contributing to the country’s rising obesity levels, a report by CABE, the National Heart Forum and Living Streets has claimed.

The report, Building Health, found that “sprawling suburbs can lead to spreading waistlines”. It also said the Government was a root of the problem, for its “long-standing and systematic failure” to include walking and cycling in transport and planning policies. The report urges both the Department of Transport and Communities & Local Government to carry out a review of their guidelines for the design of streets, public spaces and rural lanes. Representative Tom Franklin of charity Living Streets, which campaigns to improve the quality of public spaces, said: “Active lifestyles cannot be separated from the design of streets, towns and cities. They are part of the bricks and mortar of our everyday lives.” The report claims that all future developments should be built to encourage walking and cycling, which have seen a sustained decline in the UK over the past 50 years. Franklin added: “The key is to deliver more development that encourages walking and cycling. “When people see the attraction of living, working and playing in different kinds of places, they will want to work and play in those kinds of places.” The report adds that as streets become less attractive, people are less inclined to spend time in them: “Walking and cycling become less attractive and public perceptions of safety decline and activities such as play transfer from the public realm to private space. It doesn’t need to be like this.” Building Health compares the UK to countries such as Denmark, where they have much higher levels of cycling. It also cites Brindley Place in Birmingham — the UK’s largest mixed-use development — as the kind of high-density planning that encourages physical activity because everything is within walking distance. The 7ha Brindley Place features more than 102,000sq m of office space, 30,660sq m of retail space, catering and leisure facilities, 143 canalside homes, a hotel and two new public squares.

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