Sports Facilities Strategies
Since we were founded in 2001, we at Ploszajski Lynch Consulting (PLC) have carried out a large number of sports facility assessments and strategies. These have been for local authorities ranging from large, inner city councils such as the London Borough of Newham to small rural areas including Suffolk Coastal DC.
Initially, assessments were part of comprehensive leisure strategies, then compiled using Planning Policy Guidance 17 (PPG17) methodology and since 2013 they have followed Sport England’s Assessing Needs and Opportunities Guidance which has the clumsy but widely used acronym ANOG.
Over this time we have developed and evolved our approach to the development of assessments and strategies. These now include comprehensive data compilation and transfer arrangements, the use of GIS for mapping and data analysis and greater emphasis on scenario testing to examine strategic options. Current strategies have a more explicit link to Local Plans and council planning departments are now far more involved in ANOG studies.
At all times we seek to ensure that the development of a sports facility strategy is consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework and extant borough and district level Local Plans. PLC’s strategies form part of the evidence base for Local Plans, Infrastructure Delivery Plans and other relevant plans. The outcomes of the strategy, including justified standards of provision, can be used to inform Pre-Applications discussions, guide subsequent negotiations with developers (including s106/CIL) and provide clear advice to development management in the preparation of planning committee reports. We aim to produce strategies that are provide justified evidence in support of Examinations in Public and are robust in the face of challenges from Planning Appeals.
In 2018, PLC completed sports facilities (ANOG) and playing pitch strategies for Shepway District Council (now Folkestone and Hythe DC) in south-east Kent. The study involved a number of local consultations, including an in-street community interview survey with users and non-users of facilities, detailed site audits and the development of detailed supply-demand analyses and action plans.
The situation with regards to sports halls and swimming pools was complex insofar as the council provided only a small pool in Hythe with the three largest sports complexes having been built and now managed by two trusts based in Folkestone and a comprehensive school in New Romney. Folkestone Sports Trust is one of the longest established trusts in the country and has been operating Folkestone Sports Centre since 1973. The Three Hills Sports Park opened in 2013 thanks to a grant of £7 million from the Roger de Haan charitable organisation and is run by a third body, Shepway Leisure Trust.
We were surprised to find that there was no mechanism for coordination between the organisations. We made recommendations for increasing communication between operators and a common approach to pricing and programming.
With regards to the future, the study was prompted in part by significant housing development proposed for the east of the district and the need to ensure that a good level of provision was made for this new population. We made recommendations on future standards of provision and for increasing access to facilities on school sites. This is particularly important in the rural areas of the district.
In 2020, we were commissioned to carry out a Stage E review implementation of the strategies and action plan. The ANOG aspects will need to be updated in the light of the increased housing targets and new leisure developments including a large new swimming pool and health and fitness club planned for the Hythe waterfront.
In 2019, we completed sports facilities (ANOG) and playing pitch strategies for the Maidstone Borough Council. These were linked to the emerging Maidstone Plan. The study involved extensive data gathering, surveys and consultation detailed supply-demand analyses and action plans and the application of Sport England’s Sport Facilities and Playing Pitch Calculators.
We identified a number of key issues including the future of the large Maidstone Leisure Centre which is coming towards the end of its design life, imbalance between provision in Maidstone and the rural areas of the borough and lack of any secured access to school sports halls. This has been exacerbated since the introduction of the academy system in many schools which has brought an emphasis on income generation rather than meeting local sporting needs. We recommended that the council work to develop robust community use agreements particularly for new schools where agreements can be linked to planning permission.
With regards to the future, the study was prompted in part by significant housing development proposed for the borough and the need to ensure that a good level of provision was made for this new population. We made recommendations on future standards of provision.
In 2020, we have been commissioned to carry out a Stage E review of the strategies and action plans and to update in the light of new population projections.
Further examples of projects include: –
- Epsom and Ewell Borough Council: We are currently at stage C of a project to produce parallel strategies for playing pitches and built sports facilities. These studies have been prompted by the new Local Plan which anticipates a population increase of 20% (16,000 people) by 2036 with concomitant increases in demand for sports facilities. Interestingly, the borough imports a high level of demand from neighbouring local authorities. Emerging issues are a need to increase ‘3G’ pitch provision, to work with neighbours to manage cross boundary patterns of participation and to address the high proportion of pitches on education sites in the borough which do not have secured community use.
- Runnymede Borough Council: In 2019, PLC a playing pitch and outdoor sports facilities strategy for the council. This identified shortages in a number of areas particularly for ‘3G’ and youth football pitches. The council is now implementing the agreed action plan.
- South Holland District Council: In 2019 PLC completed a sports facility and playing pitch strategy for South Holland in Lincolnshire using Sport England’s ANOG and PPS guidance. This is part of a comprehensive service review which is guiding the new leisure management contract and also forms part of the Local Plan evidence base.
- East Hertfordshire District Council: In 2018 PLC completed a sports facilities and playing pitch needs assessment, relating to a major housing development involving 3,250 dwellings in Bishop’s Stortford. We were subsequently appointed by the Council to undertake a districtwide study of facilities and pitches.
- Uttlesford District Council: In 2017 PLC completed a sports facilities and playing pitch strategy for the council, to update an earlier study by reviewing needs using Sport England’s playing pitch and built sports facilities methodologies. The project involved community, parish/town council, facility user, clubs and school surveys, a qualitative audit of more than 100 sites in the district. We developed and applied standards of provision and advised on the basis for securing developer contributions and an action plan to guide implementation
- Harlow District Council: We worked in 2016 on a playing pitch and built sports facilities strategy for Harlow Council, which involved the appraisal of current and future needs in the town using the PPS and ANOG methodologies. This identified quality deficiencies at a number of sites and the need for additional and/or improved cricket and rugby facilities. As a result, the borough and Harlow Cricket and Harlow Rugby Clubs have made significant improvements in facilities having achieved external funding of over £1 million.
- Brentwood Borough Council: In 2016 PLC completed a comprehensive review of leisure, and open spaces including a playing pitch strategy following Sport England guidance. This included recommendations on the standards to be adopted for future development, asset and management responsibility transfers to local clubs and the identification of priority sites. The document forms part of the evidence base for the new Local Plan
- Suffolk Coastal District Council: in 2014 we undertook a comprehensive assessment of open space, leisure facilities and playing fields for the council. The study was carried out using the Sport England guidance for all leisure facilities. The assessment was subject of detailed consultation with the local community, town and parish councils and sporting stakeholders. It was signed off by the council as being part of their suite of evidence documents supporting the Local Plan.
- Waveney District Council: PLC completed a playing pitch and outdoor sports facilities strategy for Waveney DC in Suffolk in 2014. Here we piloted the then new Sport England PPS methodology. The council is implementing the recommendations.
- Bristol City Council: In spring 2014 we completed a sports facilities strategy and playing pitch strategy for the city, which utilised Sport England’s PPS methodology. The pitch strategy involved forming a stakeholders group with the governing bodies of sport, surveying all clubs in the city, auditing all pitch sites and developing a site-specific assessment of supply and demand.
- Gravesham Borough Council: In 2010, we completed a comprehensive PPG17 study for the council in north Kent. We conducted general community, sports clubs, schools and parish council surveys, identified facilities and sites and audited the quality of more than 400 sites in the borough. Evidence-based standards of provision were devised and applied to identify current and future shortfalls at borough and sub-area levels.
- Dover District Council: We produced a playing pitch and outdoor sports facilities strategy for the Council, which adopted the PPG17 methodology. We therefore examined all the specified forms of open space, undertook a community survey, identified local standards of provision and produced an assessment of the adequacy of provision at ward level in the district.
- A Sports Facilities Strategy for Taunton Deane Borough Council. The assessment included producing evidence-based planning standards to identify current deficiencies and also to calculate future needs based upon anticipated local population increases of 50,000 people by 2026.
- A Strategic Framework for Sports Facilities Provision for Haringey Council. The borough experiences sharp contrasts in affluence and deprivation, with related health inequalities. The Framework identifies relative need across the borough, including an analysis using Sport England’s Market Segmentation data and proposes ways to address the deficiencies
- A Sports Facilities Strategy for Lincoln City Council, involving identifying overall levels of demand, establishing the extent to which the supply of existing facilities met that demand, in quantitative and qualitative terms and determining the areas of deficiency. We also generated standards of provision, prioritised facility provision and produced an action plan.
- A Built Sports Facilities Strategy for North Somerset Council. The project involved detailed local community and stakeholder consultation, an audit of all sites in the district, the generation and application of local standards of provision and the calculation of developer contributions.