Representing Active Launceston on behalf of Launceston Community Development Trust, Launceston Life recently had the chance to catch up with Simon so he could tell us more about this exciting project, which seeks to explore how existing sporting facilities can be utilised while also finding out what the community wants and needs so everyone has the opportunity to be active. So grab a cup of tea, sit back in your favourite chair and read on to discover more about this fantastic community project...
Introducing himself, Simon said: "Hi, I'm Simon, a relative newcomer to Launceston with a passion for green space and improving access to our beautiful countryside. I am currently supporting work on our Active Launceston project. "For my day job, I am a children and young people's nurse currently working in Plymouth with a strong belief in the power of green space in improving physical and mental health for all ages, as well as improving our town's appeal as a place to live and visit."
What is the focus of Active Launceston?
It’s about shining the spotlight on health and wellbeing within the community, and the importance of increasing levels of physical activity in and around Launceston. There is a higher than average prevalence of chronic health conditions such as obesity, asthma, high blood pressure and stroke, as well as higher than average indicators of poor mental health.
We know that physical activity improves health outcomes across all age groups. There is strong evidence that access to open spaces and sports facilities is associated with higher levels of physical activity and reductions in a number of long-term conditions such as heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. It also mitigates the effect of low income and social deprivation on health, and healthy places make people feel comfortable and at ease, increasing social interaction and reducing antisocial behaviour, isolation and stress.
Becoming more active, trying something new or joining a club is great for mental wellbeing too - we can develop new skills, expand social opportunities, and it gives us a sense of identity and community.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of keeping active and keeping ourselves well. There is currently a lack of sports and leisure facilities and accessible open space - Active Launceston aims to change this.
What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
Active Launceston’s aim is to explore ways in which we can increase the levels of activity in the community to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing. We want to preserve, enhance and increase the appeal of the facilities that Launceston has to offer - how can they be made more sustainable and best be utilised to achieve this?
This is about exploring what the community wants to see and how to make this happen, so we’re asking questions like, what do you want for your town? What are we lacking? What facilities do we need?
We also want to improve access to all and make facilities more sustainable by allowing local people to have an opportunity to have a financial stake in them - community pride and ownership means better serving the needs of the people. Launceston Community Development Trust exists to raise investment, acquire sites and lease out for passionate local people to run and make a success of it.
It would also be enabling members of the community who would otherwise not engage with a sporting activity - such as young families, older people, people with chronic health needs, people with disabilities - as well as developing young talent.
Launceston’s existing facilities are underused, unfit for purpose and inaccessible to many. People end up travelling out of Launceston for facilities that better meet their needs.
Launceston has extremely limited immediate access to the countryside and landscapes that surround it. Green space provides opportunities for informal and unstructured leisure and recreation as well as putting people in touch with nature. It is essential for physical and mental health, as well as increasing the town’s appeal as a place to live and visit.
Have you had a good response from the community so far?
We received a fair response to the initial questionnaire and had a good number of returned questionnaires which are currently being reviewed.
The questionnaires are used to ensure that facilities Active Launceston develop are the ones the community wants and needs. People can take part in our questionnaire via our Facebook page.
We have received lots of supportive comments online and in person. There is a well known appetite for better facilities and more green space in Launceston, we just need to capture that.
There have been limitations of Covid restrictions on engagement, but we hope to be as visible and present in the town as possible as soon as we are able.
When is it likely Launceston will start to see the projects come to fruition?
Active Launceston is a long-term initiative. We are currently embarking on the community engagement phase, working in partnership with Sports England, identifying what the community wants. It’s important to get as many views as possible.
We are holding conversations with key stakeholders - local government, businesses, landowners, developers, clubs and leisure providers. We have recently begun some very promising and exciting conversations with landowners.
The more support and engagement we get from the community, the faster we’ll be able to bring about change.
Can the community offer any help or support to Active Launceston?
The main thing is talking to us - complete our questionnaires, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, comment on and share our posts, email us - info@launcestonCDT.co.uk, or give us a call. You can also subscribe to our newsletter via our website.
Start the conversation with friends and family - what does our town need? You can also get involved with a Launceston Community Development Trust membership. You can become a member for as little as £10 per person, or £100 for a business or organisation. Fill out our membership form or print it out from our website.
There is also a community engagement event via Zoom on 19th March, so we hope to see lots of people there.
For more information about Active Launceston and the Trust's other projects in the pipeline, visit launcestoncdt.co.uk