I RECENTLY attended a Healthy Bicester Stakeholder Celebration event, set up to mark the end of phase one of the programme and celebrate everyone’s collective achievements so far.

I was fortunate enough to be able to personally thank over 65 partners for their contributions and commitment to phase one. And as well as highlighting some of the key achievements and updating them on our joint progress, the event gave them an opportunity to have their say and help develop the plan for the next phase.

Three years ago Cherwell District Council was delighted and proud to have been successful in a bid to become one of ten healthy new towns in the country.

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Attracting significant funding from NHS England, the programme’s aim is to make it easy, appealing and affordable to live a healthy lifestyle. The joint ambition is to build healthy communities for the benefit of all residents and to work together to improve wellbeing in and around the town.

We are currently facing some worrying health challenges, such as obesity, mental health issues and the needs of an ageing population, so this programme, which aims to head off health problems, provides us with the opportunity to do something about it now.

The wellbeing of our communities can be influenced by the quality of our built and natural environments, and the considerate design of our spaces and places is critical to promoting good health.

We also need to support the wide range of voluntary and community groups in Bicester which provide vital services to local residents and really provide a wealth of opportunities for people to connect with one another.

It is hoped that the learning from this programme will be used to inform future development of the town and to influence the health and wellbeing of generations to come.

We heard stakeholder perspectives from Dr. Ellen Fallows, a local GP, Bea Foster of Bicester Green Gym and Grassroots Bicester and councillor Lynn Pratt, our lead member for economy, regeneration, and property at the council.

And we were treated to an excellent presentation by two young people who have created a business inspired by Bicester’s famous blue lines.

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Called ‘Rozario’ this Young Enterprise Business has created a ‘Healthy Dog Walking Guide’ based on the routes with the aim of promoting physical and mental wellbeing through group dog walks.

We are now moving into phase two and the council and I are committed to continuing this work as we know it takes time to change behaviour.

Working with local residents and partners is fundamental to the success of the programme and we need your continued support to do this if we are going to successfully build healthy communities.

Healthy place shaping is undeniably the sum of many individuals, so thank you to all our stakeholders for your contributions, now and in the years to come.