Cheshire West and Chester Council has successfully secured £100,000 of funding to develop ‘social prescribing’ options in Ellesmere Port, following a bid to the Department for Transport (DfT).
This could see people in the town being prescribed cycling or walking activities by their GP, nurse or other general practice staff to boost their health and wellbeing.
Earlier on in 2021, the DfT invited local councils to express an interest in taking part in a pilot scheme for areas with relatively poor health and low physical activity rates.
Following two successful rounds of assessment, the Council has successfully reached the Feasibility Study stage of the project, along with just 11 other local authorities.
If successful at the final stage, the project will see NHS staff prescribing cycling or walking where appropriate, making bicycles available as well as cycle training, access to cycling groups and peer support to keep motivation and participation high.
The application was a partnership between transport and public health colleagues at the Council along with One Ellesmere Port Primary Care Network – which is six GP Practices working together across the town – and a wide range of partners from the charity and voluntary sector.
The Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said, “This is really good news. We will now be able to build on our valuable cycling and pedestrian improvement projects that have already taken place in Ellesmere Port, so people can choose from a range of active travel options.
“If we are successful at the final stage, we will be able to build on existing social prescribing and develop a range of tailored cycling and walking activities with the ultimate aim to increase the number of “active travel” journeys taken by residents to improve their health and wellbeing.”
Active travel projects already completed for cyclists and pedestrians include the shared use pathways on the A5117, Sutton Way Boulevard Ellesmere Port to Chester Canal Tow path; part funded by Local growth funding awarded by the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, and also Stanney Lane Boulevard and Thornton Road.
Infrastructure improvements will be planned to increase the attractiveness of cycling. The Council’s Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) provides a strategic approach to identify where cycling and walking improvements are required at a local level over a 10-year period. Projects could include access to good quality green spaces and routes away from traffic with potential segregated lanes, low traffic neighbourhoods, and secure cycle parking.
Dr Emily Morton, Co-Clinical Director One Ellesmere Port said, “I am extremely happy to see this project get going. It reflects strong partnership working, bringing the Council, the Department for Transport and the local health service together to improve quality of life in Ellesmere Port. This represents the type of planning, that has the power to really improve the well-being of our residents.”
The project team hope to secure final stage funding from April 2022 onwards.
If successful, experience and learning from the pilot will be shared to support other areas who are keen to take a similar approach.
Anyone in Ellesmere Port interested in active travel prescribing can speak to their GP receptionist. There are many opportunities to be more physically active across west Cheshire, with guided walks taking place in various locations, you can find out more information by going to the Live Well Cheshire West website and searching for ‘Eat Well Be Active’.