Proposals for new cycle and walking routes in Southwick and Redhill have been created to aid the health and wellbeing of residents, as part of a pilot ‘active travel social prescribing’ project.

Sunderland City Council submitted a proposal for the project to improve cycling and walking infrastructure as part of the government’s Active Travel Fund, which helps local authorities make it easier for people to increase active travel in their daily routines.

The Department for Transport will shortlist twelve authorities across the country to take part in the pilot, which will prescribe cycling or walking to residents wherever appropriate, and make available cycles, as well as training and access to cycling groups and peer support.

The plans involve proposals for a further two cycle schemes located at A183 Dame Dorothy Street and Pallion New Road/European Way.

If the bid is successful, these two routes will link with planned cycling improvement schemes including the A183 Whitburn Road, a two-way cycle lane that is currently out to public consultation.

Alex Samuels, councillor for Southwick Ward, said: “We want to make it easier for Southwick residents to be active through their everyday activities, and this bid for improved cycle and walking routes in the area is an important factor in supporting those healthier choices.

“Increasing physical activity and supporting the mental health of our residents is key to healthier outcomes for individuals living in the city and will help to tackle the health inequalities within the wards of Southwick and Redhill.”

Social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from a variety of local agencies.

Health centres including Southwick Health Centre, Monkwearmouth Health Centre, and St Bede’s Medical Centre will participate in the pilot by prescribing personalised support plans.

Jon Twelves, chief executive of Sunderland GP Alliance, said: “Sunderland GP Alliance welcomes the opportunity that participation in the Active Travel Pilot will bring to our residents.

“We believe this new partnership is an opportunity to enable the Primary Care Network team of Social Prescribing Link Workers to work with the wider voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations within the city, to connect more residents of Sunderland to a range of walking and cycling initiatives.”

As part of the social prescribing project, the council plan to link with cycling and walking providers in the local area such as St Peter’s Cycle Hub in Monkwearmouth and utilise the Cycle Hub at Thompson Park in Southwick.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re pleased to submit our proposal for piloting active travel interventions through social prescribing in Sunderland. Linked with our plans to improve the cycling and walking infrastructures in the north of the city, this project will further support our efforts to develop an active Sunderland and support the health and wellbeing of our residents.”