Community to become physical activity trailblazers

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Plans to transform a local community into a trailblazing hub of physical activity are underway as a result of an innovative partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Harworth Group plc.

Thanks to a funding boost of almost £30,000 from Innovate UK, a team of experts from across the University are working with the Harworth Group – one of the UK’s leading brownfield regeneration companies – to incorporate physical activity opportunities into the daily lives of those living and working in Harworth’s flagship Waverley development in Rotherham.

Academics with backgrounds in sport and health will work with the Harworth’s developers to design an ‘active environment’ at Waverley. The project, which has been part-funded by Harworth and the University, will take ideas put forward during workshops with residents and employees exploring how space and facilities around the site can be utilised to create opportunities for people to become more active.

These workshops will allow designers to develop an ‘active environment’ prototype which, once implemented, will form a benchmark for similar development sites across the country.

Earlier this year, the University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and Outdoor Recreational Research Group (ORRG) received £50,000 from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) to kick-start this new partnership. The research to date has included auditing and mapping local provision, undertaking good practice research and in-depth consultation with residents and staff at the Advanced Manufacturing Park – based on the Waverley site, and wider stakeholders – about what they would like to see on the site. The project will also include measuring the social value of increasing opportunities for physical activity.

The project fits with the AWRC’s aims to create innovations that will improve the health of the nation, tackling key issues such as static levels of physical activity, rising obesity and mental health.

The £14m, government-funded AWRC will feature indoor and outdoor facilities for 70 researchers to carry out world-leading research focused on taking services and products from concept to market, using the intellectual property, products and knowledge developed in the centre to generate both wealth and employment opportunities.

Professor Steve Haake, director of Sheffield Hallam’s AWRC, said: “This project is about creating new environments which are inherently physically active and in doing so, we are starting to make a positive impact on one of the key challenges of modern society. This contributes to the aims of the AWRC and the wider city region.

“The property development market currently lacks innovation or focus on physical activity which makes this a really exciting opportunity. In partnership with Harworth, the project will make Waverley an exemplar for how development can be undertaken to enhance wider social and economic benefits. If we get this right, then the quality of life of the residents and workers on the site will improve, as will the development of the site itself.  Developers across the country could look to this in years to come as the first site where physical activity has been integrated into a development like this.”

Nick Hamilton, vice chair of ORRG, said: “The Waverley site will have 3,000 employees within the Advanced Manufacturing Park and 8,000 residents living there and our research involves gaining a clear understanding of the Waverley community and locality, looking at, what opportunities currently exist? What is missing? How services are used? What are the current needs of the communities that live or work there?

“The preliminary results from our research have highlighted an information and awareness gap amongst local people.  Residents want more parks and community spaces, fitness opportunities and safe places for their children to play. AMP employees are keen to see the site become more walk and cycle friendly and want access to indoor and outdoor fitness opportunities. This initial insight will inform the workshops and help us to determine immediate priorities for developing the active environment.”

Duncan Armstrong-Payne, Associate Director of Major Projects at Harworth Group, said “A key part of Waverley’s ongoing development is creating quality open spaces and leisure facilities to meet the increasing needs of those living there or working at the AMP.  This is a really exciting partnership and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can deliver.”