Saturday, 7 February 2015

Sport England's Comments

This is Sport England's comments (obtained from the case officer under the Freedom of Information Act 2000):

Dear Victoria,

Firstly apologies for any confusion. I did previously advise that Sport England had no formal comment to make on this application.  That said, I would like to make the following formal  comments such that Sport England’s position is understood and not mistakenly taken to be supportive of the application per say. We have also become concerned regarding the ongoing use of the bowling green and clarity around its future status, so wanted to confirm our position on this specifically also.

I would be grateful if these comments could be made available to Committee Members at tomorrow’s Committee Meeting.

Sport England aims to ensure positive planning for sport, enabling the right facilities to be provided in the right places, based on robust and up-to-date assessments of need for all levels of sport and all sectors of the community. To achieve this, our objectives are to seek to protect existing sports facilities from loss as a result of redevelopment; to enhance existing facilities through improving their quality, accessibility and management; and to provide new facilities that are fit for purpose to meet demands for participation now and in the future.

Sport England seeks to ensure that the needs of sport are given appropriate consideration and significant weight in the development management process. The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) makes the need for such consideration clear in its requirements to:

·         deliver community and cultural facilities to meet local needs;
·         protect existing sports and recreational buildings and land;
·         guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services;
·         promote mixed developments;
·         plan positively to provide opportunities for outdoor sport in the Green Belt; and
·         ensure that decisions are based on robust, up-to-date and relevant evidence.

In this above context, Sport England would support the ongoing use of the site for sport. Whilst we accept the findings of paragraphs 9 and 10 of the committee report, it is not clear what proactive attempts have been made by the Sports and Parks Service to promote the site and encourage a viable and ongoing sporting offer at the site. Sport England would advocate that the site remain in sporting use and that other sporting uses should be considered ahead of non sporting uses.

Strictly speaking, the application does not demonstrate full conformity with para 74 of the NPPF:

Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless:
·         an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or
·         the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or
·         the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss.

As indicated, whilst we do not dispute that the Bowls Club disbanded in 2013, this in itself does not mean that the site has no future purpose in serving the ongoing strategic needs of the bowls community.

The other consideration, which is not within the red line of the application boundary, is the bowling green itself. Sport England has not commented on the loss of the bowling green as this does not form part of the application red line boundary. The bowling green should therefore remain in D2 Use. The red line only extends around the pavilion and does not include the bowling green. We would therefore like to clarify that the bowling green does not  form part of this application and should remain available for ongoing community use.  This is an important point which needs to be explicitly made.

I trust you will find the above helpful, which gives a better understanding of Sport England’s position. In light of the above, it might be helpful to understanding current sporting needs in more detail before making a determination of this application. It may be appropriate to defer this application from determination until a fuller understanding of sporting need is undertaken.

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