Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best Sports Grounds Initiative

Winner - Forest Sports Zone, Nottingham City Council

Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Forest FC in the Community are tackling crime and antisocial behaviour, developing aspirations and reducing tensions through a £1.8m football and community sports facility on the Forest Recreation Ground in one of England's most deprived wards.

The original home of Nottingham Forest FC, Forest Recreation Ground is an iconic local site. The 77-acre area recently benefited from a £3.2m Heritage Lottery Fund grant towards restoring the historical landscape.

But this restoration excluded the sports zone, a poor offer with an all-weather sports pitch, two rundown and semi-abandoned bowling greens and worn-out Portakabins. The vision was to improve the sports offer and recreational activities, outsource management to improve community and school use, and develop a robust sports club environment while working with local agencies to tackle social agendas.

Funding came from the city council, the FA Football Foundation and Premier League, Police & Crime Commissioner (£150,000), Nottingham NHS (£200,000) and New College Nottingham (£75,000). Nottingham Forest FC in the Community, which had never had a permanent base of its own in the city before, was selected to move on-site.

The developed site now includes a full-size floodlit 3G football pitch, floodlit sand-based multi-activity pitch, multi-use games area and a pavilion with six changing rooms, catering facilities and space for education, club and social activities.

The sports complex is open seven days a week, 13 hours a day, for coaching programmes and community activities. The local community has free 24-hour access to the multi-use games area and free use of other areas when there are no paying customers.

After six months, Forest Sports Zone is breaking down barriers between ethnic and cultural groups, supporting community initiatives and providing high-quality facilities for locals.

Groups from different areas now work and learn alongside each other. The pavilion is a venue for youth and sports groups to offer support, relationship and sexual health advice, education opportunities and routes to employment for young people usually considered hard to reach.

In the first six months, antisocial behaviour in the area has dropped and there has been a 46 per cent decrease in robberies.

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