Promoting healthy lifestyles is high on the agenda in Southwark, where the council has spent millions creating, upgrading and maintaining its open spaces to give residents and workers the chance to lead a more active life. Noella Pio Kivlehan takes a look at the results
Every Saturday at 9am, come rain or shine in Burgess Park, hundreds of runners tighten their trainers to take part in Parkrun. In Southwark, the free nationwide running club meetings are held in Burgess, Peckham Rye, Southwark, and Dulwich parks.
And on the Saturday before April’s 2017 London marathon, a field of 1,500 runners flowed around these four flagship green spaces. It was a record for the runs, and what Chris Raveney, event director for Burgess Parkrun, calls “the marathon effect.”
But it was not just the marathon attracting runners. It is the level of the parks’ facilities, layout, wardens and maintenance, which Raveney likens to those of a Royal Park. Heaping praise on the council, Raveney says: “Burgess is a beautiful park and the lake is fantastic to run around. The council is really good at finding out what the public needs and presenting parks that are absolutely brilliant.”
In and out of recession times, Southwark Council has been consistently supporting open spaces off all size and shapes. There are a total of 130 parks and open spaces in the borough, making it one of the greenest London boroughs. Of these, 25 hold Green Flags Awards.
Southwark suffers from one of the highest overweight and obesity rates in the country. In May the council’s Health and Wellbeing Boardconsidered a report which stated 56% of adults and 42% of children (year 6) were classified as obese or overweight. Last year obesity costs to the borough and local economy was predicted to be £127 million, a 21% increase on 2015.
Solving the problem has become a priority for council leader Peter John, and his colleagues.
Councillor Maisie Anderson, cabinet member for public health, parks has said: “Everyone has a role to play in empowering our residents to be healthier. Southwark should be a place in which ‘the healthy choice is the easier choice’. Tackling healthy weight truly is everybody’s business.”
Labour maintained its majority in May's local council elections, holding 49 of the 63 seats on the council.