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Active environments

Uniting the Movement

This page is all about one of the five big issues - keep reading, or go to our main strategy page.

There’s no such thing as a ‘neutral space’. The places and spaces around us can have a positive or negative impact on whether, how, when, and where we move. We think of these spaces in three broad categories:

1. Dedicated sport and physical activity facilities: i.e. pitches, courts, pools and leisure centres.

We’ve historically focused our efforts on facilities like these. Our relationships with local authority and sports club owners of these facilities remain vital, as does the investment in them from various sources, including our own. We also have a statutory responsibility to protect playing field sites in the planning system.

Dedicated sport and leisure facilities need to be co-created, well-designed, supported and maintained to benefit the local community and their users. 

What we’ve learned about these dedicated spaces – whether indoor or outdoor - is that they can be more inclusive and more environmentally friendly, which will lead to a more sustainable stock of facilities offering better, affordable experiences for local people. This will be a focus of our capital work and investment. 

People swimming in the London Aquatics Centre pool

2. Other community spaces: i.e. parks and open spaces, village halls, community centres and schools.

A huge amount of sport and physical activity takes place, or could do, at these kinds of community spaces. 

Not usually designed exclusively for exercise, and certainly not for specific sports, these places are a vital resource for many and the activity they host provides a useful income to the venue. They may never be perfect competition or training spaces, but they attract people who might never go to a sports club, leisure centre or private gym. 

The development of community spaces like these is important to people who are regularly or newly active, so we’ll spend time and money working with those who own and run them.

3. The wider built environment: i.e. streets, housing estates, squares and tow paths.

These places and spaces influence how much we move. Good design can help to increase activity levels by encouraging walking and cycling. 

We need to work with the public and private sector to influence how neighbourhoods are planned so they create better places to live and work, while making it easy and attractive for people to be active. 

The built environment is one of the key factors in the stronger and more connected communities we all want, where local people get a say in how their neighbourhood looks and feels and where their families can live a long and healthy life.

A group of people walking alongside a canal.

To truly create active environments, we need to look at the big picture – every space and place that we move through in our daily lives, from our front door to the supermarket or our place of work, and everywhere in between, can have a bearing on if and how we move more. 

This means connecting dedicated sport and activity facilities and community spaces, by making it easy for people to walk and cycle, by better design and by using the built and natural environments around us.

Our ambition

We want to make the choice to be active easier and more appealing for everyone, whether that’s how we choose to move around our local neighbourhood or a dedicated facility for a sport or activity.

We also have a contribution to make to tackling climate change by influencing how people live and travel, and through the sustainable planning and design of the nation’s sport and leisure facilities.

What we'll focus on

The big picture

Every space and place that we move through in our daily lives can have a bearing on if and how we move more.

So we need to look at the big picture to truly create active environments.

  • Protecting and improving the nation’s sport and leisure facilities by using our investment and expertise to revive places to play, and to innovate new designs and operational models which are community-focused, environmentally sound, financially sustainable and contribute to reducing inequalities
  • Creating opportunities around community spaces by inspiring local communities to influence owners or increase their own capability to use and sustain these spaces themselves, through advice, training and resources
  • Helping to create better places to live by influencing those who develop and manage local environments to encourage both formal and informal activity close to where we live, maximising the potential of green spaces and walking and cycling
  • The implications of climate change. The sport and leisure sector must play its part, so we’ll adapt our expertise, guidance, tools and support to help our partners rise to the challenge.
Being inclusive to all

Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub

There are many things that can encourage people to be physically active, but sometimes all it takes is a smile at a desk. 

That’s what people with dementia can expect if they walk into Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub, as all of the staff have been trained as the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends, which means they have a better understanding of the condition and how they can help those affected by it. 

It’s just one of the ways LiveWire, the largest provider of leisure facilities in the Warrington area, has worked hard to make sure all members of the community have access to local facilities and activities.

They know creating the right environment is crucial in making people feel welcome.

Their attention to detail has included redesigning everything from the entrance hall to the changing rooms and toilets to make them dementia friendly.

The site has an accessible mixed-gender changing village, which includes shared cubicles for families and carers, while areas of the changing room can be closed off to manage the flow through it. For example, if a school session is taking place, part of the changing room can be closed to reduce congestion and noise.

The signage is also clear at decision points in the facility so, as an example, when a person exits the lift, the first thing they’ll see is clear signage explaining where they can go, which minimises the risk of confusion.

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