1251 GMT March 27, 2019
The seaport on the Humber estuary, whose name is derived, according to legend, from its ninth-century Danish founder, Grim, has been judged to have the ‘unhealthiest’ high street in the UK, theguardian.com reported.
Once reported to produce more pizzas for the food industry than anywhere in Europe, including Italy, it has topped the league table compiled by the charity Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
Edinburgh was judged to have the ‘healthiest’ high street in the UK.
In its report, Health on the High Street: Running on empty, the RSPH used a ‘Richter scale of health’ to measure the healthiness of shops and businesses.
Those deemed unhealthy included payday lenders, bookmakers and fast food outlets. Those deemed healthy included libraries and museums, pharmacies, dentists, opticians and leisure centers.
The league table excluded London’s high streets, which were ranked separately, with West Green Road/Seven Sisters in Haringey coming out as the worst, and Muswell Hill, also in Haringey, having the healthiest.
In its analysis, Grimsby had the highest percentage of empty shops (27 percent) followed by Bolton (26 percent).
Grimbarians, as townsfolk are called, suffered a perfect storm last year, the local paper reported, emerging in a study by accountants PwC as one of the worst-hit areas in the country for shop closures.
There were 16 major stores closed, with only six new ones opening. Among the casualties was local award-winning butchers, John Pettit & Sons, after 125 years of high street trading, and whose sausage recipe was judged best in the UK four years running.
The RSPH report said average life expectancy for people living with the top 10 healthiest high streets is two-and-a-half years longer than those in the 10 unhealthiest.
The number of fast food shops in the UK increased by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017, with the most deprived areas now having five times more than the most affluent areas, it said. High street vacancy rates had increased from below 7 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2017.
Shirley Cramer, the RSPH chief executive, said, “We come to the high street with our money and time, and convert it into a leisurely hour with a friend, a bag full of shopping or a social experience. We come away with increased cultural capital, reassurance from a healthcare professional, or the feeling of wellbeing that comes from a yoga class.
“Yet this transaction is not always good for our health. When our time and money are converted into a loss at the bookmakers, a high-cost loan or a bucket of fried chicken, the high street is enabling and supporting poor health behaviors.”
Among RSPH recommendations are a review of taxes to ensure online businesses are not put at an unfair advantage over the high street and for Facebook and Google to provide discounted advertising to local independent health-promoting businesses.
It also calls on councils to review rents, for business rates relief for businesses trying to improve public health, and for local authorities to have powers to restrict the opening of new betting shops and other unhealthy outlets where there are already clusters.
Jane Hyldon-King, North East Lincolnshire council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said, “It’s no secret that Great Grimsby is home to some of the most deprived communities in the country. It’s not something we’re proud of, but it’s unfortunate that when a new set of official statistics is released, you can bet Grimsby is near the bottom of the pile.”
However, she questioned why empty shops, a UK-wide problem, was taken as a negative factor and queried if the report had only examined one street.
The local indoor market had been commended in the government’s High Street Awards this year, and the central library was just ‘a few paces’ from the high street, as was ‘our fantastic museum’.
The council was “working hard to bring businesses and people to our town center, but it’s not an overnight fix”.
The top 10 ‘unhealthiest’ UK high streets are: 1. Grimsby, 2. Walsall, 3. Blackpool, 4. Stoke-on-Trent, 5. Sunderland, 6. Northampton, 7. Bolton, 8. Wolverhampton, 9. Huddersfield and 10. Bradford.
The top 10 ‘healthiest’ UK high streets are: 1. Edinburgh, 2. Canterbury, 3. Taunton, 4. Shrewsbury, 5. Cheltenham, 6. York, 7. Brighton & Hove, 8. Eastbourne, 9. Exeter and 10. Cambridge.