Fat of the Land

It is perhaps an obvious point to make that the more densely we construct our cities, the more amenities there will be in close proximity. Amenity uses tend to be located at ground floor level. Hence, on the face of it, there is double the commercial justification for ground floor coverage of say retail uses, when there is double the density of residential above. The result – a shorter walk to the greengrocer. Less intuitive, given this shorter walking distance is, according to a new study by Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong, that people living in dense urban areas are less likely to be obese. The translation is of course that beyond a certain distance, people don’t walk further – they get in the car. The least healthy density was found to be at 1,800 dwellings per sq km, with a linear reduction in BMI arising from greater density from that point up. From a policy perspective, the report suggests that increased planning density is, therefore, a potential ‘upstream-level public health intervention’.