‘Health hubs’ combining GP surgeries, health and social care services and gyms should be established in town centres where shops and offices become vacant, according to a think-tank.
The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) has called for high streets to become more health focused to maintain economic and social activity as town centre footfall continues to reduce.
Councils should also be given powers to raise dedicated taxes to fund parks and green spaces, it has said in a report published today (19 January).
Examples of where local authorities and healthcare bodies are already developing such hubs include a site at Wolverhampton Science Park, which brings together more than 60 health and social care professionals; and a hub in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which connects local residents with health and social care services via a triage service.
Scott Corfe, SMF research director, said: “The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic looks set to change our high streets permanently. To remain relevant, our town and city centres will need to be reimagined – and we think that health should be a key aspect of this repurposing of the high street.
“Bringing more parks, GP surgeries, gyms and ‘health hubs’ to the high street could prevent the rise of ghost towns and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the population.”
Other recommendations made in SMF’s Health on the high street report include:
- Adopting a “health in all policies” approach to town planning
- Locating health and other public services in town and city centres first, where appropriate sites are available
- Granting new revenue-raising powers for local authorities to fund and support health-enhancing infrastructure, such as parks and trails.
Christopher Stanwell, head of planning at law firm DAC Beachcroft, which supported the report, said: ““Green, clean and more inclusive add to the filter for decision making and give strategic plans a greater sense of direction. Pre-Covid many of our urban centres had become much more attractive for young adults. Post-Covid inclusion is likely to mean more housing for a greater range of ages; a return to centres that provide something for all.”