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Active Quarter reflections, one year on

Active Quarter reflections, one year on

The Active Quarter is a partnership with a mission to make it easier for everybody to enjoy being outdoors in Northampton. Over the last year, lots of progress has been made. And the current Active Quarter partners have been reflecting on the process so far…

Published May 20, 2024

What’s happened so far?

So far, the partnership has been able to secure over £1,100,000 of funding from various sources. This funding contributed to improvements across the area, including:

In January 2023, West Northamptonshire Council Cabinet resolved to continue their support of the Active Quarter partnership – so that the exciting work already taken place could continue.

What’s happening now?

Now, in 2024, the partnership is thrilled to have been awarded an additional grant from Active Travel England which will provide safer, more accessible tarmac footpaths between Delapré Abbey and the town centre.

Making it easier for people to walk, wheel, or cycle encourages them to get outdoors – and to do so independently. The new footpaths will help connect residents to local services (including outdoor spaces) so that more people can keep fit, save money, and live more sustainably.

We know that being outdoors improves health and wellbeing for both individuals and communities. And so we’re hugely thankful for this grant from Active Travel England. It is also a clear indicator that the Active Quarter’s collaborative approach is achieving results. Working together allowed us to present a really compelling case when applying for the grant, and helped us produce the best application possible.

This means that all the work taking place (both within the Active Quarter partnership and by others across Northampton) can continue in the future.

Reflections from Active Quarter partners

We want our work to keep going for the benefit of all Northampton residents. But we also hope to inspire other parts of the Northamptonshire (and the wider world) to work collaboratively – perhaps even launching their own Active Quarter coalition. So the partnership has been thinking about the journey so far, and some of these learnings are shared below:

Why form a partnership?

It was an opportunity to unite with other organisations, and use collaboration to remove some of the barriers or ‘blockages’ to getting things done. It also allowed partners to “respond to community need” and “make a postive impact within [Northampton].”

How have partners had an impact?

Partnerships have been essential to the Active Quarter’s success so far. In addition to the invaluable contributions below, they also supported the production of a cabinet report which has been a really useful resource during conversations within the local council.


Applied for and won funding to support activity


Raised the profile of the Active Quarter and other National Bodies


Shared existing research and insight


Conducted evaluation to inform decision-making

How have partners benefited?

This positive impact works both ways – with the Active Quarter also helping partners achieve individual goals. Over the last year, this included “developing positive relationships”, “sharing insight and intelligence”, “a space to listen to partner challenges” and “marketing reach”.

An opportunity to…explore how we can maximise our efforts through collaboration and the different skillsets each organisation offered.

What made the last year successful?

It has been useful for partners to be familiar with the kind of work taking place: “Ensuring that all organisations..are landowners through freehold/leasehold or [working in a] strategic role” has helped speed-up decision-making and the ultimate actioning of activities to improve access to greenspace. The Active Quarter has a formal constitution too, with all meetings using an agenda/minutes. This help keep projects on track and ensure goals were clearly set out.

  • Commited members and leaders
  • Willingness to learn and share
  • Clearly defined maps of the area
  • Shared goals and priorities
  • Energy!

What challenges can partnerships face?

The Active Quarter partners all have everyday organisational activities to manage, and this can sometimes mean it’s harder to maintain momentum when completing projects. In particular, it has been important to ensure all group members are engaged – even when a particular topic or project isn’t directly relevant to their expertise or interests. Another challenge is also how to capitalise on initial momentum and success, but “identifying when to stop and reflect on progress” can help with this.

  • Ensuring goals are met while still operating democratically
  • Ensuring messaging can be adapted for different partners
  • Ensuring partnership/member branding aren’t in conflict
  • Maintaining momentum in a fast-paced world

If others set up their own partnership, they should…


Create a clear set of ambitions

Define short and long-term goals

Ensure all members actively contribute

Develop a strategic plan to ensure focus

Without a funded project to rally around, it’s hard to deliver against planned activities, but having a loose framework for how to achieve the aims helps you to identify what opportunities to take hold of.

What next?

We are hugely excited to continue collaborating, learning, and sharing our journey. We’ll keep pursuing research and development projects that can make it easier for everybody to enjoy being outdoors – and we hope to contribute to local pride in Northampton when we do!

To find out more about the Active Quarter, visit the partnership updates page. You can also get involved in the work we do by sharing your feedback, contributing to our interactive map of the area, and enjoying your local outdoor spaces. Visit the community participation page to learn more, or get in touch.

And, if you have any questions about some of the research emerging from the partnership, you can contact Doctor Declan Ryan.