Sunday Sun - - News - By Kali Lind­say kali.lind­say@reach­plc.com

Re­porter IT has been ranked one of Bri­tain’s un­health­i­est cities, a take­away blackspot and has the high­est level of child­hood obe­sity in the North East.

Some would say Sun­der­land hav­ing a hard time of it in 2018.

In a re­cent re­port, re­search by the Royal So­ci­ety for Pub­lic Health (RPSPH) found it was the fifth un­health­i­est city in Bri­tain.

And it said res­i­dents liv­ing in towns where high streets are packed with book­ies and off-li­cences die younger than those with more phar­ma­cies and li­braries.

A quar­ter of chil­dren in year 6 and 11.4% of young­sters in re­cep­tion are obese, fig­ures show.

The city also has the sec­ond high­est num­ber of adult smok­ers in Eng­land.

We de­cided to take a walk around Sun­der­land, chat to res­i­dents and speak to busi­ness lead­ers about what life is re­ally like in the city. Here’s what we no­ticed.

There’s plenty of book­ies and take­aways


In the sur­vey, cities and towns lost marks for the amount of fast food take­aways and book­mak­ers they have.

Well, it is safe to say there is no short­age of ei­ther in Sun­der­land.

Within a few hun­dred me­tres there are three book­ies close to each other, and a short walk to Holme­side there are nu­mer­ous take­away out­lets to choose from.

The city was also named in the top 10 for the high­est num­ber of take­ways and fast food out­lets, with 245 in the city in 2018.

The num­ber of take­aways has in­creased by three-quar­ters since 2010 – a to­tal of 105 new eater­ies have opened, ac­cord­ing to data by the Of­fice of Na­tional Sta­tis­tics.

There are also a lot of casi­nos, pawn­shops and char­ity shops.

But the city did have an op­ti­cians, cof­fee shops and pubs, which it would have picked up points on.

What did res­i­dents have to say about health con­cerns?

Baker Steven Hum­ble, 29, from Red­house, said: “It could have more healthy places I sup­pose.

“I’m not go­ing to lie, I like take­aways and stuff like that.

“There def­i­nitely could be more variety, but it is never go­ing to change re­ally.

“I would love that – I spent most of my child­hood in there. It’s a shame to knock that down and put a piece of grass there.

“Kids now have got nowt. There’s the aquat­ics cen­tre and that’s about it. When I was younger I spent most of my time in the leisure cen­tre.”

Project man­ager Jude Gil­h­espy, 60, from Ry­hope, agreed.

She said: “I think there’s a dis­tinct lack of places where you can go and do things and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise.

“I think one of the rea­sons for that is the coun­cil doesn’t have an aw­ful lot of money.”

Jude said that al­though there are leisure cen­tres in the area, more needs to be done.

“I think it needs more from GPs in the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” she added.

“Them say­ing to peo­ple and this is what you need to be do­ing to make an ef­fort, and for them to li­aise with sport­ing are­nas and things to get peo­ple and en­cour­age them to.

“I think we need that type of thing, rather than aban­don­ing peo­ple to do it them­selves be­cause that can be dif­fi­cult for any­body.”

What did busi­ness lead­ers say?

Gra­ham Burt, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Sun­der­land Car­ers Cen­tre, branded the rank­ing “an in­sult”.

He said: “Sun­der­land has a his­tory of sup­port­ing heavy in­dus­try, from coal min­ing to ship­build­ing to au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing. How­ever, thriving in the more historic in­dus­tries can some­times come at a cost for peo­ple’s health. There are many who still suf­fer from se­ri­ous health con­di­tions ex­ac­er­bated by their for­mer work­ing en­vi­ron­ment and there are many oth­ers that suf­fer ill health be­cause of is­sues as­so­ci­ated with poverty, but to la­bel any of them ‘un­healthy’ is an in­sult, given that they are be­ing im­pacted by fac­tors out­side their own con­trol.”

Mr Burt said the city needs to think health­ier but there are other fac­tors play­ing a role.

“There are many fac­tors im­pact­ing on the health of peo­ple that are far more com­plex than the num­ber of book­mak­ers or off-li­cences on our high streets,” he added.

John Sea­ger, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Siglion, ques­tioned those be­hind the sur­vey.

He said: “I won­der what the peo­ple who com­pile th­ese sur­veys ex­pect to get out of them or whether they ap­pre­ci­ate the stigma that they un­nec­es­sar­ily at­tach to a town or city.

“The fact is that, for most who live, work and play in Sun­der­land, it does not re­flect the re­al­ity of the place they love.”

Mr Sea­ger said the city has an an­nual 10k and half marathon, and there is an abun­dance of parks and out­door space.

He added: “Our work on Vaux will see the ar­rival of new, state-of-the-art workspaces, that will pro­mote well­be­ing.”

What did Sun­der­land City Coun­cil say?

Coun­cil­lor Stu­art Port­house, the coun­cil’s cabi­net mem­ber for hous­ing and re­gen­er­a­tion also ques­tioned the method­ol­ogy of the sur­vey. He said: “I’ve vis­ited other big cities re­cently and I do gen­uinely think they are worse than ours for lit­ter and I do won­der about the ev­i­dence and method­ol­ogy for th­ese sur­veys. “Hav­ing said that, and as the so­ci­ety notes, this coun­cil, and oth­ers across the coun­try, need more free­dom, more pow­ers and ex­tra re­sources to make more pos­i­tive in­flu­ences on high streets and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. We all want to see a cleaner, greener and health­ier city, and the coun­cil and its part­ners do their ut­most to achieve this.”

John Sea­ger, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Siglion

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