Healthy High Street
A Town Centre that Breathes...
High streets are both attractors of commercial activity, with the potential to positively affect the local economy, and attractors of community activity, shaping a unique sense of place.
As such, they can be a critical instrument for economic growth together with the focus for some of the highest levels of social interaction and activity, and therefore play an important role in the health of local communities - having both a direct and indirect impacts on health.
High streets can also enable and encourage people from different communities and backgrounds to meet and become more socially engaged and integrated. This leads to activating communities to create healthier environments in which to build social, environmental, and economic capital.
These are the building blocks of better health outcomes. Consequently, local high streets should be considered an existing community asset, which can be used to promote and improve health, helping to make the healthy choice the easiest choice.
So...what is a Healthy High Street?
Source: adapted from 10 Healthy Streets Indicators developed by Lucy Saunders
Healthy high streets can be considered an asset that promotes and improves the health of local residents and the wider local community featuring good quality design and furniture, providing accessible, safe communal spaces that can be used to create healthier, safer, and more cohesive local communities.
For optimum health promotion, high streets should:
· be inclusive of people from all walks of life
· be easy to navigate, including crossings
· provide shade, shelter, and places to stop and rest
· be walkable and provide options for cycling
· have low levels of noise and air pollution
· provide things to see and do
· have a health-promoting retail offer
· ensure people feel relaxed and safe
The Town Team have the opportunity to influence successful place-making in Chippenham that will have a direct impact on both physical and mental health which will then ensure that the regeneration of our town is sustainable - by the community for the community.
The natural footprint of Chippenham Town centre has often been forgotten in years past when money and new initiatives have been introduced, and yet we have been blessed with this as our unique selling point - always there despite decisions made that may not have ensured its future!
In most towns and cities the significant increase in hard surfacing over time and the reduction in green spaces has led to higher temperatures than in the surrounding countryside. This is known as the ‘heat island effect’. But our natural footprint in Chippenham delivers a fantastic cooling green and blue infrastructure naturally and right at our heart.
The trees, parks, and river Avon that runs through Chippenham facilitate the cooling of air and the absorption of atmospheric pollutants. The park vegetation also provides an opportunity for people to be close to ‘nature’ with many positive effects by providing shade and shelter, encouraging physical activity, benefiting mental health and most importantly, creating a sense of place and community.
Most of the town is already accessible with easy of crossing that is safe for people of all ages and of all physical abilities, but the health of our high street can also be defined by street furniture - decluttering streets by removing unnecessary street furniture, alongside introducing distinctive landmarks, accessible toilets, pedestrian crossings, seating areas and well-maintained pavements etc, can improve the experience for many high street users - particularly those who are vulnerable to exclusion.
Chippenham is a lovely town - but there is so much more to be done……