East Cambridgeshire is fortunate in having a range of playing fields and outdoor sports facilities, many owned and managed by the Parish Councils, and some by schools and sports clubs. The role of ECDC is generally to work with these facility providers, and with sports clubs and organisations, to protect facilities for future generations; and to identify and address anywhere improvements may be needed.
In order to support this work, a study was commissioned to obtain a current picture of provision across the district, to evaluate the quality of the facilities, and to anticipate future needs and priorities. The study primarily covered sports pitches, courts and bowls greens. It also examined provision for informal activities such as walking, running and cycling – although this is more difficult to assess, except in somewhat general terms. The work was independently carried out, using Sport England methodologies to ensure that the findings are robust, and involved extensive site visits and consultations with the Parish Councils, other facility-owners, users, and sports organisations. Necessarily however, the study provides a ‘snapshot’ of provision and usage at the time; the picture can change as teams form or disband, or where usage arrangements change, and the information will be reviewed periodically to keep it updated.
The study conclusions confirm the need for such facilities, not only for sport, but also as communal open spaces. In most of the villages they are one and the same, and serve a wide range of functions - even if much of the usage is informal and difficult to measure.
Overall there is a reasonable balance of demand and supply. Most people in the District have a range of facilities of acceptable quality and within reasonable reach.
The main sport in terms of facilities and activity-levels is football, for which there are pitches and teams across most of the district. There is a slight overall deficit in playing capacity, and the situation is more acute locally where pitches are of poor quality or particularly susceptible to weather conditions; support facilities (changing, parking) are inadequate; or usage arrangements are insecure.
There are specific quality issues at some cricket facilities - generally in practice nets rather than main pitch areas - and some seasonal overlaps with football. For hockey, netball, rugby and tennis, facility issues are again about quality rather than quantity, and the priority may be to strengthen ‘hub’ sites for coaching and competition. For bowls, usage and viability may be of more concern than playing space, but this varies with the location.
Generally, where there are weaknesses in the facilities this is likely to hinder development of the sport, although there may equally be some limitations in organisational capacity. For all activities, population growth may create increased pressure on space over coming years, particularly in higher growth areas, and this needs to be considered alongside more localised pressures.
Overall activity space varies markedly across the district. It broadly aligns with long-established benchmark guidelines for space per 1,000 population, and more loosely with those relating to travel distance; but the quality of the space varies, and one or two localities appear under-served.
Some localised facility development is required to remedy identified weaknesses, and support the growth of clubs and programmes. This will generally be based on site-specific strategies in collaboration with the clubs, governing bodies and facility-owners.
Comments and queries
Please contact: Victor Le Grand, Senior Leisure Services Officer.
Telephone: 01353 665555