EAST Lancashire has been awarded a share of £100 million of National Lottery funding to tackle inactivity in communities.

Pennine Lancashire has been chosen by Sport England as one of only 12 pilot areas in the country to work with on a bold new approach to build healthier, more active communities across the country.

Pennine Lancashire, a partnership which aims to improve health and care services, said its priority group in the pilot would be the almost 40,000 people with depression or anxiety and stress in the area.

The partnership includes seven local authorities; Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Lancashire, Pendle, Ribble Valley, and Rossendale, and also Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust and Lancashire Care Foundation Trust.

The pilot schemes over four years would see ‘innovative’ partnerships created to make it easier for people in the communities to access sport and physical activity.

Across Pennine Lancashire there are more than 100,000 people who are physically inactive, increasing the chance that they will have heart disease, a stroke, problems breathing, cancers and poor mental wellbeing.

Public Health England figures also show that 68.6 per cent of adults in Blackburn with Darwen alone are classified as overweight or obese.

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, the accountable body for this project, said: “This is really good news for our area. It means that over the coming years we can work together to help inspire people to become more active in new ways that suit them.

“Mental health issues can affect everybody and this project presents an exciting opportunity to make a big difference to people’s lives.”

Cllr Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley Council, said: "I’m delighted that Pennine Lancashire has been awarded this funding.

“There is a significant problem with obesity and a lack of exercise in the area and the money should go a long way to improving health outcomes and inactivity.”

County councillor Azhar Ali, former health and wellbeing cabinet member at Lancashire County Council, described the funding boost as ‘fantastic’.

Cllr Ali said: “This is fantastic news and I hope this funding can go into grassroots projects aimed at keeping kids more active.”

Michelle Pilling, deputy chair and lay member for patient and public involvement at East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “I am thrilled that this funding brings added investment into Pennine Lancashire to support people with mental health problems to become more physically active.

“Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body but it’s also one of the best ways to improve mental health, it is widely known that a healthy diet and exercise are the most powerful medicine that anyone can take.

“We know that there are many reasons why people are inactive so I am delighted to see investment available for communities who do such amazing work by creating the right conditions that support people’s health and wellbeing, so that they can live healthier and happier lives”.

Jennie Price, Sport England chief executive said: “We are delighted that Pennine Lancashire will be working with us on this ground-breaking investment.”

“The process to be appointed as a pilot area for this work was incredibly competitive, and Pennine Lancashire has emerged from a very strong field. I am really delighted to be working with them.”