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REC1  Principles For Sport And Recreation  Strategic Policy

New facilities for sport and recreation will be directed towards the existing urban area and to locations where they are easily accessible by public transport. Outside the urban areas provision will be restricted to facilities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation which preserve the openness of the green belt and to facilities which can be accommodated within an existing building.

The local planning authority will in particular seek to safeguard existing facilities of wirral wide importance for sport and the distribution of facilities capable of providing for top level sporting competition.

Reasoned justification :

9.1 Opportunities for sport and recreation are important features in the quality of life for many people. The range and quality of sports provision not only contributes to the health and fitness of local people, but can also contribute to the wider image and attractiveness of an area. Sport also has an important local economic impact, not least in terms of the level of employment supported by consumer spending on sports-related goods and services, including education, travel and the media.

9.2 While it is national policy to promote the development of sport and recreation, it is the role of the local authority to assess local needs for recreational facilities, identify deficiencies and encourage the development of suitable sites for additional provision. Planning policies should, therefore, not only aim to make adequate provision for new development but also seek to guide that provision to areas where the greatest needs have been identified.

9.3 Policy REC1 provides the framework for the future development of sports facilities throughout the Borough. It particularly seeks to concentrate new development within the urban area where demand is greatest and facilities are most easily accessible to local people. This is not only consistent with the urban regeneration strategy for the Borough but also with national Green Belt restrictions. It also reflects the pattern of deficiency in sports provision throughout the Borough.

9.4. While there are few quantifiable or commonly agreed standards for the provision of sports facilities, indicators such as the target for outdoor playing space recommended by the National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) demonstrate a general shortfall of provision throughout most areas of the Borough. For example, the NPFA target relates the number of people normally resident within an area to the overall amount of land available and in active use for outdoor recreation. This includes facilities such as playing fields, running tracks, bowling greens, tennis courts and other areas specifically intended for formal sport or play. In Wirral, the current level of provision for this type of space, including facilities managed by the public, private and voluntary sectors, is 1.85 hectares for every thousand people. This is well below the target level of 2.43 hectares for every thousand people recommended by the NPFA.

9.5 In contrast to this, the distribution and range of indoor facilities within Wirral is generally good. The Wirral Leisure Strategy prepared by the Council’s Leisure Services and Tourism Department identifies the need for a number of additional facilities. Many have recently been provided through a major new construction programme, sponsored by the Wirral City Lands Initiative, which has included the Wirral Sports and Indoor Tennis Centre at Bidston, the Birkenhead Cricket Club Indoor Cricket Centre and the Europa Pools swimming complex. However, the following additional facilities are still required;

- a wider distribution of synthetic sports pitches
- small, 20 metre, local or neighbourhood swimming pools at Beechwood, Bidston and to serve the Heswall/ Pensby and Eastham/ Bromborough areas
- multi-purpose indoor sports centres to serve West Wirral and the Eastham/ Bromborough area
- local neighbourhood sports halls adjacent to school sites catering for joint public and school use
- play and community centres at identified locations
- a specialist gymnastics training centre
- provision for ice and roller skating
- children's play equipment within existing urban open spaces at identified locations

9.6. The Leisure Strategy also identifies the need for additional library facilities. Such projects and other sports related developments of a predominantly urban nature are not appropriate outside the urban area.

9.7 Policy REC1 also provides for the protection of facilities which play a particularly important role in providing for recreational needs within the area. This includes major recreational facilities, such as the Oval Sports Centre in Bebington and the Leverhulme Sports Ground in Eastham, as well as smaller sports grounds which may not have the range of facilities of the larger sports complexes but which nevertheless provide for higher levels of competition which require facilities above normal standards. Such sites are rare and if lost, would be very difficult to adequately replace.

9.8 In areas where land with potential for sporting use is already limited such sites can assume even greater importance. This is also the case for facilities which can support relatively intensive use for a wide range of different activities, especially where they are well located, able to serve a relatively wide catchment area and still have scope for future expansion. The distribution of such facilities also needs to be safeguarded so that the range of opportunities available throughout the Borough is consistent. This requirement is, therefore, also specifically reflected within Policy REC1.