Creating attractive and accessible spaces and places, allows and encourages people to participate in more informal activities and play opportunities, helping to increase activity levels.
Through Active Essex’s place-based approach, initial steps have been taken to adopt policies for the design of future built environments, looking at the spaces and places to ensure they meet the specific needs of the people who live there, and supporting the work in reducing climate change through active travel methods.
Green and blue spaces are important parts of the facility stock available to Essex residents, and are very much needed for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Initial partnership working with Essex County Council teams; Sustainable Travel, Green Infrastructure, Place Services and Local Planning is proving pivotal in this work.
Encouraging cycling and walking for leisure purposes and as an alternative way to travel, is helping Active Essex to ensure there are more active communities, consequently improving air quality and supporting the climate change agenda and carbon production.
Active Essex’s placement within Essex County Council, has strengthened their relationships across teams and are now collaboratively working on a number of projects. The Safer Greener Healthier campaign continues to be funded through the Essex Local Delivery Pilot and has been an important step for Essex to respond to the climate change emergency.
The Essex Cycle Grant has supported organisations throughout the county, helping to encourage more residents to take up cycling. The grant has helped support those learning to ride or access a bike, as well as residents who are more confident wanting to explore Essex on two wheels.
Ensuring cycling is inclusive for everyone, Active Essex have worked with organisations such as Sport for Confidence CIC, Wheels for All and Trailnet, as well as utilise funding from the London Marathon Foundation (LMF), Essex Cycle Grant and the LDP Health Alliance budget to power further opportunities, especially among SEND schools.
In addition, the LMF and Active Essex funding partnership has supported over 70 schools to design an active travel plan. 30 of these have secured funding to implement further physical activity opportunities for pupils and their families to travel actively. Initiatives such as bike loan schemes, scooter safety training, bike shelters, walking busses and bike sessions for the whole family, have helped encourage young people and their families to become more physically active and adopt sustainable travel habits. Schools who have secured this vital support will provide physical activity opportunities to more pupils and continue to work towards the Essex climate change agenda.
Active Essex is collaboratively working with Essex County Councils Sustainable Travel Team and Living Streets, to work with schools to capitalise on pupil-led initiatives where children self-report how they get to school every day, using the interactive WOW Travel Tracker delivery in Essex continues to go from strength to strength.
The Essex Local Delivery Pilot cycling initiative; Essex Pedal Power, has seen significant transformation over the past 12 months. The project was initially piloted in Clacton and Jaywick Sands, and has now expanded into other areas in the county, with programmes launching in Basildon, Colchester and Harwich in 2023.
Read about the London Marathon Foundation active travel initiatives
Last year, Active Essex continued to maximise outdoor opportunities by working with partners and local organisations to encourage residents to engage with activities, which utilised green and blue spaces.
One such initiative is ParkPlay, with 68% of ParkPlays across the country taking place in Essex, as of March 2023. The Essex Resident Survey highlighted that a safe outdoor environment was the third most important attribute to encourage residents to be active outdoors. ParkPlay breaks down barriers for communities to utilise their green space and enables families to get active together.
Almost a quarter of the county is filled with green spaces, and it’s important to take advantage of these areas. By working with Trust Links, Active Essex have been able to expand their work into Basildon using funding from the LDP and Essex Levelling Up fund to launch a greening project- focusing on 3 local estates in Lee Chapel and Felmores, to empower local residents to improve the green space in their neighbourhoods. The Vange Growing Together project will shortly launch, bringing people together for therapeutic gardening and positive activities, improving health and wellbeing.
Furthermore, Active Essex have supported various campaigns in line with Safer Greener Healthier, such as the walking app Go Jauntly. The app has now reached nearly 1 million people through the Essex walking routes (of which there are now over 60 walking routes mapped in Essex) and inspired over 14,000 people to walk more locally. Go Jauntly also delivered an 3k Steps a Day walking challenge in January of this year where over 213 million steps were walked, a carbon saving of over 40,000kg emissions and a saving of £6,378.20 of petrol by walking instead of driving.
Contrastingly, with 300 miles of coastline across the county in addition to the rivers and estuaries, it has been important to capitalise on the opportunity this brings for activity. The Active Thames funding pot, led by the Port of London Authority (PLA), awarded £20,000 in grants to 4 successful applicants in Essex, covering a wide range of activities, including sailing, paddlesports and rowing. Collaborative working between Active Thames, the Port of London Authority and Active Essex has helped to ensure more opportunities are offered to residents looking to explore activity on and around the waterways.
Gamification across Essex has activated both coastal and green spaces, as well as urban areas. Active Essex continue their work with a range of organisations such as Street Tag and Beat The Street, offering residents a free alternative way to get active and engage with others in their community. Living in a very digital society, it’s important to adopt innovative ways for residents to be active and keeps Active Essex at the front of digital inclusion.
Planning and Infrastructure
In partnership with Essex County Council teams, Active Essex are helping to shape existing and future developments by embedding physical activity and sport into county-wide planning policy, infrastructure, and urban design. Building upon the success of embedding the Sport England Active Design Principles within the Essex Design Guide, the team are applying this guidance practically to improve the quality of new developments and ensure they encourage and welcome users to be physically active.
Work continues with the Livewell Accreditation Scheme, to expand the Livewell Development Accreditation across Essex and a training package will be key in ensuring the quality and understanding is in place to apply for and assess the Accreditation.
Throughout the active environments work, strategic groups such as the Playing Pitch Strategy and Active Travel Steering Groups provide an outlet to ensure Active Essex’s message gets disseminated down into local communities by working with national, county-wide and hyper local groups. 12 Playing Pitch Strategy groups are now up and running, creating a blueprint for this work for other Active Partnerships.
It's important to take time to reflect and understand the learnings from work undertaken, in order to focus on ways to improve in the future.
Working closely with planning and place services colleague is vital for this work
Need to explore other ways to fulfil a green social prescribing project
Need to engage and influence planning decisions as early as possible
Must influence more partners to create the development of effective spaces
RideLondon, the world’s greatest festival of cycling and a legacy event from the London 2012 Olympic Games, came to the county for the first time on Sunday 29th May 2022, welcoming 25,000 cyclists, in a partnership between RideLondon and Essex County Council. The new route, also meant Essex hosted two stages of the RideLondon Classique; a three-day UCI Women’s WorldTour stage race for the best female riders in the world.
Essex has a strong history of cycling events and RideLondon-Essex gave the county the opportunity to inspire residents to hop on two wheels, whether it be in mass participation event or simply by swapping the car for active travel methods.
As a result of RideLondon-Essex 2022, communities right across the county are benefitting from significant funding from The London Marathon Foundation– funding that inspires activity and supports people of all ages and abilities to participate in sport and physical activity.
Read more the event, fund and groups supported
Dive deeper into the event and the benefits
Read about how Active Essex activated communities and inspired residents
Find Your Active grants
The fund was powered by the London Marathon Foundation, as a result of RideLondon-Essex 2022.