Preston has 'unhealthiest' shops in the UK

The Lancashire city was chosen ahead of Middlesbrough and Coventry

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The Independent Online

Preston has the “unhealthiest” high street in Britain, according to a study by the Royal Society for Public Health.

The Lancashire city was chosen ahead of Middlesbrough and Coventry, in second and third place respectively, because of the proliferation of fast food shops, tanning salons, bookmakers and payday loan shops in its main retail area. Northern and Midlands towns dominated the list of unhealthiest places with Eastbourne the only southern place in the top 10.

Businesses were ranked by experts and the public based on whether they encouraged “healthy choices”, positive mental well-being and social interaction and also if they offered health advice. The top three healthiest places were Shrewsbury,  Ayr and Salisbury.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the society, said: “Our research does find higher concentrations of unhealthy businesses exist in places which already experience high levels of deprivation and premature mortality.

A fish and chip shop in Preston city centre (Jon Super)

“We recognise that businesses investing in high streets are important for local economies, but this shouldn’t be at any price.”

She stressed the rankings were “by no means a reflection” on the health of people.

The society called for councils to be given greater planning powers to control numbers of unhealthy businesses and for “public health criteria” to become a licensing condition for all shops. It added there should be a limit of 5 per cent for each type of business on a high street.

In Preston yesterday, there was surprise at the city’s unwanted title.

“Preston is no different to any other high street,” said Cathy Fludder, 47, who sells second-hand video games at the local market. But a healthy diet was too expensive and many shops sell “crap food” cheaper than fruit, she added, saying: “It is not very easy to eat healthily and cheaply.”

Cathy Fludder: 'It is not very easy to eat healthily and cheaply' (Jon Super)

Jess Patterson, 21, a pregnant mother-of-one who works in a call centre, said there were an “extreme” number of bookies in the city centre. “I wouldn’t call Preston unhealthy, but I do eat fast food. I don’t think it is any worse than Manchester or Liverpool.”

At the Falafel Express food van, Waleed al-Qudah, 43, said: “I’m very surprised. I don’t consider the shops to be too unhealthy,” he said.

Britain's "unhealthiest High Streets"

1. Preston

2. Middlesbrough

3. Coventry

4. Blackpool

5. Northampton

6. Wolverhampton

7. Grimsby

8. Huddersfield

9. Stoke-on-Trent

10. Eastbourne

Source: Royal Society for Public Health