St Helens shortlisted for walking and cycling on prescription initiative
St Helens Borough Council is among two local authorities in the Liverpool City Region shortlisted to take part in an innovative social prescribing pilot scheme that would use increased cycling and walking to boost the health and wellbeing of residents.
Article date: 18 March 2022
As part of the Department for Transport's (DfT) Active Travel programme, the Liverpool City Region has been granted £100,000 to develop a feasibility study for St Helens and Sefton which would allow health professionals to prescribe cycling or walking to residents, where appropriate, as a means of improving mental and physical health conditions.
In St Helens borough, the pilot would initially focus around Four Acre in Clock Face, building on existing social prescribing services already offered locally to help address high levels of deprivation and health inequality. This builds on the council's recently-adopted Active Lives Strategy, which focuses not just on improved access to physical activity but also how aspects like walking and cycling-friendly infrastructure schemes can also play a part in making people more likely to choose these ways of travelling more often.
If successful, the pilot would become the latest in a series of ambitious schemes led by St Helens Borough Council to encourage active travel across the borough.
Within the project area for this proposed pilot scheme, work is already ongoing around Lea Green to install a total of seven cycle routes as part of a £15m St Helens Southern Gateway project to make sustainable transport an easier choice for commuters by linking the railway station with safe, dedicated pedestrian and cycling routes, connecting nearby residential, leisure and employment areas.
This infrastructure will help to make walking and cycling activities prescribed under the pilot, as well as everyday trips, safer and more attractive for local journeys.
St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Councillor Andy Bowden, said:
"As a council we're making a conscious effort to make greener travel the go-to transport choice for residents and visitors to our borough by creating safe and accessible cycling and walking routes to key locations, so this project would make a great addition to our network and allow more people to get fit and active while enjoying the many stunning scenic locations our borough has to offer.
"Introducing more walking and cycling infrastructure will also play a key part in improving air quality as part of our efforts to reach zero carbon by 2040, so it really is a win-win as we look to achieve our key priorities set out in our borough strategy."
Cllr Liam Robinson, transport portfolio holder for Liverpool City Region said: "In the Liverpool City Region over the last two years we've seen lots more people walking and cycling - initially for those essential journeys and daily exercise, and now as a positive new habit being woven more and more into daily life.
"This pioneering new initiative is going to look at how we can harness the health benefits of walking and cycling by developing a programme that will enable GPs to write 'social prescriptions' for active travel, which will help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of their patients.
"The Combined Authority and our partners at St Helens Borough Council are committed to making cycling and walking in the easier and safer. That's why we're planning a network of new and upgraded footpaths and bike routes - all linked to bus stops and rail stations as part of Mayor Rotheram's plans for a London-style integrated transport system for the Liverpool City Region."
The Active Travel feasibility study is expected to be submitted this April. Subject to approval by central government, funding will be available to start the delivery of this project this year.