A CITY famous for its cathedral has been labelled one of the unhealthiest places to live in the UK.
Peterborough’s stunning Norman cathedral and dreamy countryside pull in tourists from across the country.
But behind the city’s charm and rich history, there is a growing problem.
It has just been ranked Britain’s unhealthiest place to live after analysis of Office for National Statistics data.
Measured on 12 distinct criteria – air quality, adult smoking rates, alcohol misuse, prevalence of cancer, diabetes, drug misuse, healthy eating habits, high blood pressure, kidney and liver diseases, adults with mental health problems, obesity rates, and physical activity levels, it scored a miserable 40 out of 100.
By contrast, Britain’s healthiest area, South Hams in Devon, measured 80.
Barry Rhodes, 41, visiting his parents having moved from Peterborough to Sydney in Australia more than a decade ago, struggled to believe it was true.
“There are really excellent facilities here,” he said.
“There are cycleways all around the city, gyms everywhere, amazing golf courses, I just don’t understand it.
“Is it just that Peterborough is the latest whipping boy for the media?”
In truth, Peterborough IS spoiled for gyms with 20 of them in the area, but 60.7 per cent of the population are classified as obese and their smoking rate of over 29 per cent is among the highest in the country.
Richard, 66, who did not want to give his surname, said: “This place has declined beyond belief.
“There are homeless people everywhere, foreigners taking up all the accommodation, pubs closing down, banks closing, fast food everywhere and the only idea our politicians have is cutting carbon with 15 minute cities. The place is a joke.”
Retired accounts manager Jenny Wright, 70, said: “It doesn’t surprise me. Peterborough has gone downhill very badly. Just look around, so many people are overweight.
“Young people go to Milton Keynes for designer shops and we are just left with loads of Burger Kings and other fast food outlets and empty shops. There’s very little reason to come here.”
It’s no surprise either to greengrocer Steve Wetherill, 51, who has a stall in the town centre.
He said: “I see it all here. At 6am, some bloke, stoned out of his head, grabbed a bunch of bananas and ran off.
“There is a lot of rough sleeping, I see people smoking crack, dealing drugs and the shoplifting is like a pandemic.
“Nothing ever happens when they’re caught as they are always mentally ill but it stops any hope of improvement.
“People like independent shops but there is no way any independent could survive here with the losses these businesses have to shoplifting. It is in the tens of thousands a year.
“I know some people want to eat healthy but you need to make financial sacrifices to do that. Eating better does cost you more and people are really struggling.
Eating a pastry and drinking a can of coke, Maria Angelo, 62, said: ‘I have not heard about Peterborough being unhealthy. I guess what I am eating is not the best but it is quick and easy.”
Deborah Search, 59, a shop worker temporarily surviving on universal credit due to an ankle problem, said: ‘Some parts of Peterborough are really dirty and the traffic is bad.
“You see loads of overweight people, more than ever these days and everything is so expensive.
“I smoke but I am healthy enough. I try to lay off chips and go more for egg baps and I do like a salad.
“I think there should be more government campaigns like they had with Keep Britain Tidy. People need encouraging.”
Businessman Paul Smith, 56, said: “Things have changed so much. When I was young there were no McDonald’s, we cycled everywhere, we ate the food that was in season and you’d have a beetroot sandwich when you were hungry.
“Now the kids get driven and dropped off everywhere and 30 per cent of them are obese.
“But good, healthy food is not cheap. We need to be teaching kids how to cook in schools and try to change the culture.”
Insurance advisor Martin Nielsen, 30, keeps himself very fit but, working in the town centre, he is not that surprised by Peterborough’s ranking.
He said: “I was not aware of how low Peterborough was ranked but this is quite a poor area.
“It is very industrial. Most jobs are in factories and warehouses so life is a struggle and finding the money for healthy food and gym memberships is not easy.
“The NHS is not having the best of times so I guess I am not that surprised.”
Anne Bailey, 61, suffers from terminal bone marrow cancer and uses a wheelchair.
She said: “I think we are really struggling at the moment. I went to the hospital today for some blood tests and injections and the nurse as off sick so now I have to make five separate trips to get the same things done.
“My mother is 90 and lives in Huntingdon which is not far away but there they have exceptional care.
“Here you ring up to see the GP and you’re 27th in the queue. They look at me like I am a pot of money, not a person.
“There are parts of the city that are really ignored. You see overflowing bins, rubbish everywhere and if I didn’t have an NHS wheelchair, I’d be forever getting punctures.
“Landlords are taking horrible advantage of vulnerable people. You can see the deprivation everywhere.”
But not everyone was having it. Stephen Richardson, 67, a gardener, said: “I would take issue with Peterborough being the unhealthiest place.
“There are parts of the place that are really bad. We have had a lot of refugees moving to these areas and there is lots of fly tipping but some people are trying to stay healthy.”
And greengrocer Sarfraz Ahmed, 48, said: “I just don’t believe Peterborough can be that bad. It is a beautiful city, a lovely place to live.
“I have seen Sheffield, I have seen Nottingham and you can’t tell me Peterborough is less healthy than them.
“I know people are struggling. They pay benefits monthly now, not weekly, and our stall is not as busy as before but given the electric bill can wipe you out these days, we are doing well to survive.”