Councils actively support residents to enjoy fit and healthy futures
The refreshed Leisure, Sport and Physical Activity Strategy for Babergh and Mid Suffolk has been given the go-ahead – enabling communities to be more active and improve their health and wellbeing.
Both councils adopted their original Leisure, Sport and Physical Activity (LSPA) Strategy in 2017 following a review of the leisure services, facilities and partnerships in the districts.
Since then, there has been substantial progress in the delivery of sports facilities across Babergh and Mid Suffolk. This includes a multi-million pound investment in the refurbishment of Sudbury’s Kingfisher Leisure Centre, £2.4m of funding to modernise swimming facilities at Hadleigh Pool and a £2.2m investment in Mid Suffolk’s sports facilities including the recent upgrade and extension of Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre.
However, in recognition of the changing needs of the districts’ residents – and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 – the strategy has recently been reviewed and refreshed by the councils, with proposed changes receiving unanimous approval at cabinet meetings earlier this month. This will ensure that the strategy remains relevant and enable increased participation in sport and physical activity, particularly from less active people experiencing greater health inequalities.
The updated strategy sets out the proposed new strategic outcomes – active people, active places and spaces, and active partnerships – objectives and high-level actions for the future delivery of leisure, sport and physical activity services across the districts. Following on from the priority actions identified in the strategy, a comprehensive action plan is currently in development, with plans for this to be published later this year.
Undertaking collaborative work and significant stakeholder engagement to revise the strategy has been key, with 11 national sporting governing bodies and 44 organisations such as Active Suffolk, voluntary groups, schools, town and parish councils and the clinical commissioning groups for Suffolk involved to enable a holistic approach.
There has also been an update to the strategy’s accompanying evidence base and as part of this extensive research was carried out, in addition to an independent audit of Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s sport and leisure provisions to help maximise the districts’ current assets for its communities.
The audit found that the majority of parishes have at least one community building which is, or could be, used for formal and informal physical activity, with many village halls and community buildings already hosting Fit Villages and yoga, fitness or dance classes. Both districts also benefit from a good supply of outdoor pitches and tennis courts, however it’s acknowledged that some of these require upgrading and this has been addressed in the Priority Infrastructure Projects outlined in the strategy.
Cllr Derek Davis, Babergh District Council cabinet member for communities commented:
“It’s great news that we continue to prioritise sport and leisure in the districts at a time when health and wellbeing has never been so important.
“I am also pleased that the updated strategy has highlighted so many positives – including our council recently investing almost £5m to improve some of Babergh’s leisure centres and swimming pools – and we must now build upon these strengths and deliver our strategic outcomes.
“I’d like to thank our partners for their input on the strategy – providing invaluable feedback and allowing us to take a holistic approach in recognition that we all have a part to play in encouraging our communities to be more active and achieve a better quality of life.”
Cllr Harry Richardson, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing said:
“Ensuring that our council offers adequate sport and leisure facilities for years to come is key to enabling Mid Suffolk residents to lead active and healthy lives and I’m delighted that we’ve taken the positive and proactive step of reviewing our strategy to identify what needs to be done to meet the changing needs of our residents.
“We are fortunate enough to have some excellent community assets in our district, with Stowmarket and Stradbroke’s leisure centres recently undergoing significant council funded refurbishments, but we must still do all we can to make sure that sport and activity is accessible to everyone.
“Our refreshed LSPA strategy will enable this – identifying current barriers faced by less active people, who experience greater health inequalities, as well as what can be done to overcome these and guarantee bright and healthy futures for our communities.”
The updated LSPA Strategy also forms an important part of the councils’ upcoming Wellbeing Strategy – supporting residents to live happy, healthy and independent lives – expected at Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s Full Councils in the autumn.