Value of green space acknowledged in new Government sports strategy

The Parks Alliance has welcomed the Government's newly published sports strategy, which focuses on increasing physical activity and sport participation across the UK.

"Unofficial" sport in parks recognised in new sport strategy. Image: Pixabay
"Unofficial" sport in parks recognised in new sport strategy. Image: Pixabay

'Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation' (PDF) signals a shift in Government policy, which - by its own admission - has for the past decade focused on increasing sport participation and winning more Olympic and Paralympic medals.

The report explains: "Both of these [goals] are valuable, and will remain part of this new strategy. However, what really matters is how sport benefits the public and the country."

The new strategy, released following a consultation held earlier in 2015, will focus on five key benefits of sport and activity: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development, and economic development.

Government sport funding will go to organisations that can show how they will deliver on these outcomes, particularly if they collaborate with other organisations and provide benefits at a local level.

In the report the Government acknowledges the role local authorities play in encouraging physical activity through managing rights of way, parks and other green spaces.

"Being close to where people live, high quality multi-use local green spaces can play a key role as sporting venues and as alternative settings for sport and healthy activity for communities including new audiences that are less likely to use traditional sports centres," the report says.

"The opportunities to realise the multiple benefits that can be achieved for communities by investing in green spaces and routes as venues for sport and healthy activity should be considered whenever they arise."

The report also acknowledges that much sports practice - even amongst elite athletes - occurs outside official sports facilities, in parks and open spaces, concluding: "Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land should not be built on unless the sites have been assessed as surplus to requirements; the loss would be replaced by equivalent or better provision; or the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss."

The report also says Sport England will need to partner with departments and groups it has not traditionally worked with as part of the strategy. During 2016 Sport England will set out plans to focus "significant resources" to develop local physical activity strategies in specific areas where physical activity is currently low, working closely with Public Health England and local authorities.

Mark Camley, chair of The Parks Alliance, the national voice of UK parks, welcomed the report, saying parks have a crucial role to play in increasing physical activity.

"Parks are already key in getting the UK active as organised as well as non-organised sport typically happens in parks rather than sporting grounds. Parks, largely free at point of use offer a low cost means of grass roots participation to draw in hard to reach groups. With regular participation better than one-off, reducing barriers such as costs is an important driver to deliver continued participation.

"We support the finding that support for sport and physical activity infrastructure should not just be restricted to pitches, sports halls and buildings. We are pleased that for future investment, Sport England will balance the need for, and existing provision, of all spaces not just built facilities.

"Having an invested park infrastructure such as making areas safe and secure, good way finding and signposting both, physically and on-line is crucial for encouraging new and lapsed users."

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

From The Editor - Urgent need to pool park ideas

One of the toughest jobs professionals working in the parks sector have faced over the years has been getting across to politicians just how critical green spaces are to the health and wellbeing of local communities.

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

This year's Saltex will be looking to build on the success of last year by packing in a multitude of exhibitors and sessions over the two days, Sally Drury reports.

According To Dunnett ... Horticulture needed to 'colour in' green infrastructure

According To Dunnett ... Horticulture needed to 'colour in' green infrastructure

It's now around one year since work started on Sheffield's groundbreaking "Grey to Green" scheme, one of the largest urban green infrastructure projects in the UK.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Contracts & Tenders

Sally Drury on professional gardening

Sally Drury

A monthly checklist of things to do and watch out for to keep your garden looking its best.