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Policy S5 Sports and recreation facilities


  1. In order to ensure there is sufficient supply of good quality sports and recreation facilities, boroughs should:
    1. regularly assess the need for sports and recreation facilities at the local and sub-regional level
    2. secure sites for a range of sports and recreation facilities
    3. maintain and promote the Walk London Network shown on Figure 5.1 and encourage networks for walking, cycling and other activities.
  2. Development proposals for sports and recreation facilities should:
    1. increase or enhance the provision of facilities in accessible locations, well-connected to public transport and link to networks for walking and cycling
    2. maximise the multiple use of facilities, and encourage the co-location of services between sports providers, schools, colleges and other community facilities
    3. support the provision of sports lighting within reasonable hours where there is an identified need for sports facilities and lighting is required to increase their potential usage, unless the lighting gives rise to demonstrable harm to the local community or biodiversity
    4. ensure that there is no net loss of facilities, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no ongoing or future demand.
  3. Where facilities are proposed on existing open space, boroughs should consider these in light of policies on protecting open space (Policy G3 Metropolitan Open Land) and the borough’s own assessment of needs and opportunities for sports facilities, and the potential impact that the development will have.

Sport and recreation facilities are important components of social infrastructure. Both formal and informal facilities should be provided, to encourage physical activity and deliver a range of social, health and wellbeing benefits to communities. People take part in various forms of sport and recreation which require a number of different types of facility. Many activities require minimal facilities, and often an open space or community hall can be sufficient.

Current provision of swimming pools, artificial grass pitches (AGPs), and sports halls is not meeting demand[69]. The need is most significant for AGPs where only 55 per cent of demand is currently being met. Swimming pools currently meet 93 per cent of total demand across London and sports halls meet 85 per cent of demand. For all types of facilities, the level of unmet demand is projected to increase by 2041 if no new facilities are provided. Increasing the catchment areas of existing facilities by improving public transport accessibility and access by walking and cycling, plus extending their opening hours, could increase their availability and potential number of users. Where new facilities are to be provided, they should be located in accessible locations, with the ability to maximise opening hours.

[69] Strategic Assessment of Need: Swimming Pools, Sports Halls and Artificial Grass Pitch provision in London 2017-2041 Facilities Planning Model. Sport England. July 2017

It is essential that boroughs plan strategically for future provision of these core sports facilities. Boroughs should assess the need for sport and recreation facilities to ensure appropriate levels of provision and help tackle inequality of access in London, particularly in areas or for groups with low participation. By their nature, sports facilities often form a part of open space, so sports and open space needs assessments should have regard to one another. Built sports facilities should only be accommodated on green open space if that area has been identified as surplus to requirements as per an open space strategy.

Up-to-date playing pitch strategies can be used to protect and enhance the use of existing playing fields and help to plan for where more are needed. Sport England provides guidance on the preparation of these strategies, which underscores the importance of a strategic approach to provision to take account of demand for facilities crossing borough boundaries, particularly in relation to specialist activities.

Specialist sporting venues and stadiums also have a role to play in providing facilities and enabling wider access to sport, as well as having an important cultural value.

The co-location of sports facilities should be encouraged, particularly within new and existing schools, colleges, commercial schemes and community centres. This will help ensure the right mix of facilities in the right places to meet sporting demand and to increase participation.

Lighting can be important for the accessibility of outdoor sports facilities and can help to improve their use. The form of lighting required will depend on the facility and its use, but efforts should be made to minimise the impact on the surrounding areas, and to not cause a demonstrable harm to the local community or biodiversity. The hours of use of lighting should be agreed early in the process.

Places that are designed for people to be active and to move around freely will also encourage more physical activity in people’s daily lives. Existing networks, such as the Walk London Network, also help to encourage this further.