TAUNTON'S high street has been named the third healthiest in the UK in a new report released today.

Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has ranked Somerset's county town amongst the best out of 70 high streets, placing it only behind Edinburgh and Canterbury.

The Health on the High Street: Running on Empty report used a scale giving points for pubs and bars, dentists, opticians, libraries, leisure centres, museums and galleries, pharmacies, coffee shops and vape shops.

Points were deducted for betting shops, payday lenders, fast food outlets, off licences, tanning salons and empty shops.

Grimsby was crowned the unhealthiest town, followed by Walsall and Blackpool.

Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Northampton, Bolton, Wolverhampton, Huddersfield and Bradford all found themselves in the bottom ten.

Following Taunton in the healthy stakes were Cheltenham, York, Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Exeter and Cambridge.

Cllr Mark Edwards, deputy leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “We are delighted to be recognised in this important study from such a respected body.

"Our plans for Taunton are ambitious and focused on our people and place, bringing in more investment for jobs and growth that will continue to increase quality of life for the whole community.

"A key part of these plans is to keep our high street thriving and fit for the future."

Nigel Pearce, president of Taunton Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is great to hear that Taunton has been recognised in this way, and it promotes the view that quality of life is one of the many reasons that people relocate here.

"We do have a good environment with a great range of shops, cafes and facilities, and this is further proof that we are a good place to visit."

Somerset Chamber CEO, Stephen Henagulph said: "The changing face of retail means the shops and businesses on our High Streets have to work harder than ever these days to ensure they continue to meet the demands of the shopping public.

"It is a complex and often challenging environment, where even the smallest alterations in delivering what the customer wants can have a huge impact.

"The fact that the recently published report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has ranked Somerset's county town of Taunton amongst the very best, coming third out of 70 high streets across the entire UK, is incredibly positive and well deserved.

"Taunton Town Chamber has worked hard in supporting, partnering and driving positive news about Taunton’s High Street and has collaborated with the retailers to achieve this.

"For Taunton to achieve recognition and national coverage about the health of its High Street is brilliant.

"Retailing may well be changing but getting the basics right and providing an environment that gets national recognition makes it a great place to operate from.”

The list was first published in 2015 and was updated this year to reflect the changing face of the British high street.

It added off-licences and the growing number of empty shops to the list of negative features on a high street, while cafes and vape shops were added to the positive influences.

The research found that 4,000 new fast food outlets had opened across the UK in the past five years - predominantly in poorer areas.

Deprived areas now have five times more fast food shops than wealthy neighbourhoods, the RSPH said.

It showed that vape shops have doubled to 2,000 in the last three years, while the number of empty shops on the high street has increased from below 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

High streets hosting too many "unhealthy" businesses like betting shops, fast food outlets and off-licences could be significantly shortening the lives of locals, the report also claims.

Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that residents living in towns with lots of bookies and off-licences die younger than those with plenty of libraries and pharmacies.

Its ranking of 70 high streets found those living in the top 10 healthy areas lived an average of two-and-a-half years longer than those with the 10 unhealthiest high streets.

London's many high streets were ranked separately, with Seven Sisters Road in Haringey, Roman Road West in Bow and Thornton Heath in Croydon coming bottom.

Muswell Hill in Haringey, Hornchurch in Havering and Pinner in Harrow were deemed the healthiest high streets in the capital.

The findings come in the wake of the Chancellor's announcement in the autumn budget of several measures aimed at helping ailing high street shops facing decimation by their online rivals.

Philip Hammond announced that 500,000 small retailers will see a third knocked off their business rates, while a digital services tax will be levied at tech giants with global revenues above £500 million.

A £650 million fund was also announced to improve transport access for struggling town centres and to turn empty shops into homes and offices.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH, said: "While the face of the Britishhigh street continues to change, the environmental and economic factors that influence inequalities in health outcomes across the country remain stubbornly intractable.

"Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.

"Reshaping these high streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance."

She added: "While we broadly welcome the package of measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week, we are concerned that they do not go far enough."

She said local authorities were unable to reshape their high streets to promote positive businesses due to ongoing funding cuts.

The 2018 results: UK wide The ten “unhealthiest” UK high streets

1. Grimsby

2. Walsall

3. Blackpool

4. Stoke-On-Trent

5. Sunderland

6. Northampton

7. Bolton

8. Wolverhampton

9. Huddersfield

10. Bradford

The ten “healthiest” UK high streets

1. Edinburgh

2. Canterbury

3. Taunton

4. Shrewsbury

5. Cheltenham

6. York

7. Brighton & Hove

8. Eastbourne

9. Exeter

10. Cambridge