Preston, Chorley and South Ribble councils in Lancashire, England, have been advised to improve the quality of several Central Lancashire sports pitches increase the overall number to meet the demand for playing surfaces in the area.
A recent study even suggested to invest in seven synthetic turf surfaces across the three authorities. Football, cricket and bowls are highlighted as sports whose players need more space to enjoy their games. The “playing pitch strategy”, which has been developed as part of the report, lays out a vision for facilities which “increase participation, help tackle health issues and provide accessible, inclusive activities”.
The document suggests that investment should be prioritised across key sites with large catchment areas.
While it acknowledges the importance of smaller, “locally significant” venues like recreation grounds, the report recommends that councils consider “rationalising” the cash spent on such facilities and focus instead on sites which can accommodate multiple clubs and sports.
The local democracy reporting service understands that each council will continue to produce its own playing pitch action plan based on participation rates for particular sports and consultation with residents. The report recommends that councils adopt a plan to protect the facilities which they already have, enhance any which need upgrading and add to the supply of pitches were shortfalls are found. It also raises the possibility of converting some of Central Lancashire’s sand surfaces to 3G grounds.
According to the consultancy report, one of the most significant gaps in playing pitch provision is in grass pitches for youth 11v11 football sides. It also found that there are sufficient playing surfaces for rugby and hockey, although the quality of the latter needs improving.
reston City Council cabinet member for environment, Coun Robert Boswell, said: “The Central Lancashire Playing Pitch Strategy (PPS) provides a true picture of the current levels and quality of outdoor recreational provision within each borough. The strategy takes into account current supply and future demand, based on housing growth.
“The PPS is a key document for Sport England and national governing bodies of sport, as it provides recommendations for sport-specific investment at a grassroots level. The council is now working closely with these key stakeholders and other funding bodies to see how and where investment should be targeted to ensure that a maximum return on investment is achieved and value for money is demonstrated.
“The key findings highlight some short, medium and long-term objectives which will help more people, to be more active in more places, while having the best experience.”
South Ribble Council cabinet member for finance, Coun Matthew Tomlinson, said: “Creating new and improving existing green spaces across the borough is a key priority for us and we’re committed to improving health and wellbeing across South Ribble and to work with our community to make access to activities easier for all.”
Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley, said: “We’re committed to providing high quality open spaces, sports and recreation facilities for the residents of the borough to enjoy and promote good health and wellbeing.
“During the past five years, we have made significant improvements in some of our facilities across the borough including Coronation Recreation Ground, Harper’s Lane recreation Ground, Rangletts Recreation ground and Jubilee Recreation Ground. Some of these spaces are now being used more proactively by the community to host activities to improve the wellbeing of local people and they are proving really popular.
“We are currently working on a number of exciting projects which include Westway Sports Campus, Astley Park lighting scheme, pitch improvement facilities for King George V site in Adlington and an archery facility for Chorley Bowman, plus a number of other play schemes and a pump track in Clayton-le-woods.
“In terms of the specific findings for Chorley in this latest evidence, a number of these are being addressed in projects which are currently underway (including Westway Sports Campus which will provide an artificial grass pitch with future plan for athletics provision, Twin Lakes Croston and King George V) and we are now considering the rest of the findings and a draft Chorley Open Space and Sports Recreation Strategy and Action Plan will be published for public consultation later in 2019.”