RURAL SERVICES

SOUTH & EAST CORNWALL

£165,600.00 FUNDED

A New Life for Par Track

Par Track Ltd

A grant to support a project to reconfigure the clubhouse at Par Track to provide a café, gym, exercise space and treatment rooms.

On Track for a fit and healthy community

Health and wellbeing is about so much more than fitness alone – it’s about community support and a sense of value, amongst other things. But how do you combine these factors to benefit residents in areas facing increasing social and economic challenges? This was the question addressed by a charitable organization based in Par,on the South Coast of Cornwall.

“It’s a community with significantly poor rates of health among young and older people,” explains Collin Harker, Chair of Par Track Charitable Community Benefit Society. “There’s a range of socio-economic reasons why opportunities for accessing fitness facilities is essential,” he says. Driven by his community’s lack of opportunities to access health and fitness equipment, Collin volunteered to helm a project that he hoped would make a big difference.

In 2018, notice was given to users of the old Par Track (a running track and sports space) that the facility was at risk of closure. Collin, who was a regular visitor to the space, taking part in football training and bringing his children for sports days, felt that this could be an opportunity to “redevelop the space in a way that would enable more people to benefit from it,” he says. The likely alternative to preserving this facility was “development for housing,” explains Collin.

LEADER Programme funds fitness and more
But taking on the redevelopment of the site, which comprised a running track, eight changing rooms and a kitchenette, would require significant funding, so the newly formed board turned to LEADER to secure one of the two grants needed. The redevelopment was a remarkable change, with a site that includes a track and green space, plus a fully functioning café with library, gym, studio and changing block.

A library and a café may not seem likely bedfellows, but as Collins explains, “The library came about through need…they are one of these things that are closing everywhere.” Rather than accepting another loss for the community, the team decided to include it in their offer, in the hope it would enrich lives and bring greater footfall to the centre.

‘It’s working very well,” says Collin, who recognises the huge contribution made by the “motivated group of volunteers” in respect of the assistance they provide. These champions of the community are mostly older people, “looking to keep active and involved,” he says. And the successes don’t end there: With income sourced mainly from the café, the centre now supports 16 people on PAYE – nine full-time-equivalent posts. Compared to the two part-timers this site funded previously, it’s easy to calculate the impact.

Particular achievements have included the fantastic success of the ‘social-prescribing’ scheme, which involves grant-funded fitness memberships for local people. This scheme is set to continue, with support from the NHS. In addition, the uptake in youth engagement, including free multi-sport activity camps, has encouraged more young people to get involved.

To find out more about Par Track, go to https://partrack.org.uk

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