Indoor Leisure Facilities - Draft Strategy & Action Plan

Ended on the 17th January 2021
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(1) 1.0 Introduction

In June 2019 Central Bedfordshire Council appointed WYG Limited ('WYG') to work with the Council to prepare an Indoor Leisure Facilities Strategy for the Council area, for the period 2019 to 2035.

The Council's current Leisure Strategy was adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) in 2014 to inform the Council's Core Strategy. It comprises three facility-based chapters covering indoor sport, recreation open space provision and outdoor sport; and the Physical Activity Strategy which focuses on the priorities to increase levels of participation in sport and physical activity.

The Leisure Strategy comprises:

Chapter 1: Leisure Facilities Strategy - indoor sports and leisure centre facilities

Chapter 2: Recreational Open Space Strategy - nine types of recreational open space

Chapter 3: Playing Pitch Strategy - nine types of outdoor sports facilities

Chapter 4: Physical Activity Strategy - delivery programmes to increase participation, supporting Public Health priorities.

The current Leisure Facilities Strategy has been successful in securing new facilities and s106 contributions from housing growth and has guided the Council's capital investment in leisure facilities. The updated strategy will continue and develop this work, to ensure new housing development makes appropriate contribution to leisure centre facilities.

The updated strategy is required to address the extensive planned housing growth in Central Bedfordshire and to inform the Council's planning for the delivery of indoor sports and leisure centre provision to support its residents to maintain and improve their health and well-being.

The Central Bedfordshire Local Plan will see approximately 20,000 new homes delivered during the plan period 2018-2035. The strategy is required to ensure that the Council has an up-to-date evidence base and policy for the provision of new, and the improvement of existing indoor sports facilities to support the Local Plan policies.

(1) Vision and Objectives

The vision for the strategy is to:

'Plan and provide a network of high-quality indoor sporting and leisure centre facilities, to meet the needs of Central Bedfordshire residents both now and in the future.

This to be achieved by the provision of new or replacement centres guided but the strategy evidence and the retention and enhancement of existing facilities to ensure they continue to meet the sports and recreational needs of residents throughout the period of the strategy.'

The strategy objectives are:

  • To plan and provide for strategic indoor sports and leisure centre facilities which support Central Bedfordshire residents in leading active and healthy lifestyles.
  • To plan and provide facilities on the basis of evidence and need, to ensure residents have access to modern and high-quality facilities.
  • To integrate the projected scale and location of residential development across Central Bedfordshire into the needs assessment and evidence base. To ensure the scale of facilities required from new residential development is established, with evidence for contributions through Section 106 agreements.
  • To ensure that facilities play their part in enabling Central Bedfordshire residents to maintain and increase their very high participation levels in sport and physical activity.
  • To ensure the maximum benefit from Central Bedfordshire Council investment, by co-locating sports and recreational facilities with other Central Bedfordshire Council services and activities, so achieving economies of provision and maximising the return on investment.
  • To promote principles of sustainability and base facilities on Sport England Active Design principles and guidance, and provide opportunities for all.
  • To develop a strategy that details to partner organisations what Central Bedfordshire is aiming to achieve and dovetails with their own strategies. To ensure maximum opportunities for collaborative working and investment.

The Role of Central Bedfordshire Council

Central Bedfordshire Council's key role is to develop and adopt robust strategy for the provision for strategic indoor sports and leisure centre facilities which supports the Local Plan and guides the delivery of the strategy, working in partnership with key organisations. The strategy sets out the rationale, evidence and provision of facilities required over the strategy period to 2035.

The strategy establishes the Council's aims and delivery objectives and reflects the council's record of achievements and facility delivery. The new strategy will continue to support the council in its delivery of new and updated facilities, integrating the future needs generated by housing growth.

The strategy sets the framework for future facility provision, but its delivery will be adaptive to the sports/activities residents wish to do, changing lifestyles and patterns of participation, plus trends in new and different types of facilities.

The role of the Council is to distinguish long term and stable facility investment while being flexible to accommodate new trends and changes; and where appropriate integrate these trends and changes into the strategy direction, project development and operation.

(3) Strategy Scope

The scope for the leisure facilities strategy includes:

  • Swimming Pools (20m & above)
  • Sports Halls (3 Badminton-court size & above)
  • Netball (indoor facilities)
  • Indoor Tennis (indoor centres)
  • Indoor Bowling (bowling centres)
  • Squash Courts
  • Studios (and indoor cycling)
  • Health and Fitness (gyms)

Strategy Content and Sections

The strategy has four further sections, a summary of the content of each section is shown below:

  • Section 2: Strategic Context - this section set out the planning framework and methodology applied to undertake the needs assessment and produce the evidence base for each facility type.
  • Section 3: Assessment Findings - this section sets out the findings from the assessment for each leisure facility type in the strategy scope. It has a short overview and then sets out the findings in a table for each facility type under the four headings of: Quantity, Quality, Accessibility and Availability with specific issues identified.
  • Section 4: Action Plan and Implementation - this section sets out the action plan for each facility type within the three headings of Protect, Provide and Enhance. These are the accepted three headings adopted by planning for development plan and strategy purposes. This section also includes a review of Central Bedfordshire planning policies, with an update for this policy and the justification identified from the strategy work.
  • Section 5: Monitoring and Review - this section describes the importance of monitoring and describes the tasks involved lead responsibility and timescales.

The strategy is supported by three studies/reports and these are:

  • Facility Planning Model Reports November 2018 - May 2019. The Sport England facility planning model (fpm) is a spatial supply, demand and accessibility model, which can assess the current and future demand for swimming pools and sports halls. The fpm methodology is consistent with meeting the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework for the development of an assessment of need and local evidence base. Central Bedfordshire Council applied the model in an extensive study which modelled the current position for swimming pools and sports halls in 2019 and then projected forward. The forward projection is based on the Council's projected population change based on residential development sites in the Council's Local Plan. It identifies the scale of change in demand and its distribution across central Bedfordshire and in each of the quadrants.
  • The Council then identified a series of options for change and modelled different scenarios for provision of swimming pools and sports halls, involving a different scale of swimming pools and sports halls at the same or different locations. The findings were considered in full by the Council and the preferred options have been built into the strategy. There are free standing facility planning model reports for both swimming pools and sports halls.
  • The Assessment Report May - November 2019. This is a very extensive document and provides in order the assessment of need and evidence base for each facility type. This includes in detail: the strategic framework at National and Central Bedfordshire levels; the Central Bedfordshire demographic profile; the Central Bedfordshire profile of sports and physical activity participation - actuals, trends and reasons for change; the assessment of need for each facility type; a consultation report with the findings from three types of surveys and consultations with external stakeholders, neighbouring local authorities and national governing bodies of sport.
  • Issues and Options Report November 2019 - February 2020 The Issues and Options Report is the second stage in the production of the new strategy. It sets out: a summary of the key findings from the assessment stage of work; and the issues and options that arise from the key findings. The purpose of the issues and options report is to consider the evidence and assess the priorities which emerge based on the evidence base.

Timetable for Adoption of the Strategy

  • Consultation on the draft strategy:
    • the Council's Executive considered the draft strategy on 7 April 2020 and approved it for public consultation. Consultation was due to take place in Spring 2020, however, due to the Covid 19 pandemic the consultation was postponed. The consultation will now be held between 5 October and 16 November 2020.
    • the Council's Overview & Scrutiny Committee will consider the draft Strategy during the 8 weeks consultation period;
    • feedback from the consultation will be reviewed and the strategy updated; and
    • the final strategy presented to Executive at a suitable time for adoption as Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to support the Local Plan.
  • Central Bedfordshire Council - responsibility for delivery and key review stages. The delivery programme will be reviewed annually or as projects are delivered; major projects will undertake detailed feasibility assessments; and the strategy will be reviewed 5 years following adoption or if significant changes to the housing growth forecast are made.
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