Assessment of Open Space, Sport and Recreation

An Assessment of Open Space, Sport and Recreation (PPG 17 Compliant)

Section I - Introduction



Strategic Leisure Limited (SLL) was appointed by Thanet District Council (TDC) in July 2005 to undertake an assessment of open space, sport and recreation facilities (PPG 171 compliant) to identify local needs for provision, and opportunities for enhancement, development or replacement of current facilities.

Scope of the Study


The study adheres to the guidance detailed in “Assessing Needs and Opportunities: A Companion Guide

to PPG17” on undertaking local assessments of open space, sport and recreation provision. The study has included an audit of existing indoor and outdoor open space, sport and recreational facilities in terms of:

  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Accessibility


The study has also given consideration to the following factors:

  • Different uses of facilities
  • Classification and differing typologies of provision
  • The scale and availability of resources for maintenance / management
  • English Nature’s “Natural Accessible Greenspace Standards”


The study undertaken has included:

  • Consideration of the likely needs up to 2017
  • A review of all existing applicable plans and strategies
  • A review of existing open space, leisure and recreation policies contained within the Local Development Plan (LDP).
  • A range of consultation exercises to ascertain the views of the local community, key interest groups and wider stakeholders
  • Consideration of existing facilities within the district, including provision by the local authority (including education), private and voluntary sectors
  • An assessment of playing pitch provision using the methodology detailed in “Toward a Level Playing Field: A Guide to the Production of Playing Pitch Strategies” (Sport England, 2002)
  • Recommendations for local standards of provision with regard to quantity, quality and accessibility for inclusion within the emerging Local Development Framework

Structure of Study Report


A number of key tasks have been undertaken to complete the assessment and develop standards of provision and recommendations. These are detailed in Section II.


This report has been structured as follows, to assist in the presentation, and analysis of a vast amount of information.

Section I - Introduction to, and rationale for, the study

Section II - Study Methodology - approach, techniques, consultation Rationale, and explanations of quality ratings

Section III -

  • Assessment Findings, by typology (types of open space/facility), on a District wide basis
  • Findings, by typology, on an area basis
  • Local Standards - their rationale, recommendations for Thanet, and implication of their application
  • Recommendations and Conclusions

Rationale: Why Develop a Strategy?


The desirable outcomes from undertaking a PPG17 Assessment are to provide local people with networks of accessible, high quality open spaces and sports and recreation facilities in both rural and urban areas, which will meet the need of local people and visitors. PPG 17 strives to provide a balance between enhancing existing provision and new provision.


The provision of good quality, accessible open spaces, and sport and recreation facilities can make a positive contribution to a number of key social objectives. These include:


Promoting and supporting the urban renaissance agenda through the provision of local networks of

well maintained and well managed, open spaces, sports and recreational facilities in order to help create urban environments that are safe, attractive and clean. Greenspaces in urban areas perform vital functions as areas for nature conservation and biodiversity and by acting as’ green lungs’ can assist in meeting objectives to improve air quality.


Supporting rural renewal – the countryside can provide opportunities for recreation and visitors can play an important role in the regeneration of the economies of rural areas. Open spaces within rural settlements and accessibility to local sport and recreational facilities contribute to the quality of life and well being of those people that live in the remoter areas.


Promoting social inclusion and community cohesion – well planned and maintained open spaces

and good quality sports and recreational facilities can play a major part in improving people’s sense of well being in the place they live. As a focal point for community activity, they can bring people from deprived communities together providing opportunities for wider social interaction.


Health and well being – open space, sports and recreational facilities have a vital role to play promoting healthy living and preventing illness and in the social development of children of all ages through play, sporting activities and interaction with others.


Promoting more sustainable development – by ensuring that open space, sports and recreational

facilities (particularly in urban areas) are easily accessible by walking or cycling and that more heavily used or intensive sports and recreational facilities are planned in locations well served by public transport.


Improving open spaces, sport and recreation facilities and to encourage greater use by all members of

the community. A key driver for this is to provide the residents of the District with safe, accessible, attractive provision and facilities that are of the right type and meet the needs of the communities that use them.


Protecting valuable provision from development where there is a definite need and ensuring that new

landscape schemes contribute to improving the area and that quality is maintained obtaining correct levels of funding.


Identify processes for Partnership Involvement – the Council is keen to involve local communities in the management of greenspaces and wishes to create opportunities for people to be involved and have ownership, working together to improve the greenspace.

Key Principles of the Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment


There are several key principles in the development of the assessment, they are:

  • To concentrate on providing quality provision
  • To develop wider use of facilities with restricted access e.g. school facilities
  • To secure high levels of access at a local level to a range of facilities (variety of green spaces and sport/recreation facilities)
  • To respond to local needs when there is a clear articulated consensus of opinion
  • To concentrate on providing sports pitches at strategic locations fit for purpose
  • To develop local standards to meet local needs

The Thanet Approach: Methodology


For the assessment, the Companion Guide to PPG17 identifies five key steps to undertaking an assessment of playing pitches, indoor facilities and open space. These are broadly:

  • Step 1 – Identifying Local Needs
  • Step 2 – Auditing Local Provision
  • Step 3 – Setting Provision Standards
  • Step 4 – Applying Provision Standards
  • Step 5 – Recommendations


The desirable outcomes from undertaking a PPG 17 Assessment are to provide local people with networks of accessible, high quality open spaces and sports and recreation facilities in both rural and urban areas, which will meet the needs of LOCAL people and visitors. PPG 17 strives to provide a balance between enhancing existing provision and new provision. The study undertaken for Thanet District Council has followed the framework above.


The objectives of the open space and indoor recreation study are to:

  • Assess the quantity, quality and accessibility of open space and recreational facilities in the distinct.
  • Set local standards for the quantity, quality and accessibility of open space and recreational facilities taking into account local needs and priorities in accordance with PPG17
  • Identify deficiencies or surpluses in the quantity, quality and accessibility of open space and provide recommendations for resolving them
  • Provide information to inform decisions and help determine future development proposals in the area and feed into the Local Development Framework (LDF) (In line with Central Government guidance contained in PPG12)
  • Support corporate and departmental strategies including the community strategy, cultural strategy, leisure plan.


A number of key tasks have been undertaken to complete the assessment and develop standards of provision and recommendations. These are summarised below: 


Stage 1: Identification of local needs: The following key tasks have been undertaken:

  • A review of the implications and priorities of existing strategies to identify links with existing strategic priorities.
  • A review of existing policies and provision standards relating to open space, sport and recreation facilities.
  • Consultation with the community and stakeholders via Sports Club Surveys, School Surveys and Face-to-face meetings. Additionally a 500 door to door survey to capture the views of facility users and non-users was undertaken.


Stage 2: Audit of local provision: The following key tasks have been undertaken:

  • Review of quantitative information held by the Council
  • Site visits to an identified sample of over 200 known open space, sport and recreation facilities with community use (across all sectors)
  • Consultation with facility providers
  • Mapping facilities in respect of location and catchment area


Stage 3: Setting Provision Standards: The following key tasks have been undertaken:

  • Quantity Standards set using the findings of facility audits, local consultation and demand modelling.
  • Quality Standards set using the findings of facility audits and local consultation.
  • Accessibility Standards set using the findings of facility audits, local consultation and mapping catchment areas.


Stage 4: Application of Provision Standards: On the basis of the standards set, application of these,

such as defined catchment areas, the impact of poor quality, allows the:

  • Identification of deficiencies in accessibility
  • Identification of deficiencies in quality
  • Identification of surpluses or deficiencies in quantity


The strategy has been developed to provide an overall framework that will guide the Council in future management and designation of open spaces

Context for Study


In undertaking this study, it has been important to reference and reflect the thinking at national level, on

the role of open space, sport and recreation provision. The key strategic influences are summarised in

Table 1.1


The need for improved use and management of open spaces particularly public parks in urban areas has

seen increased commitment demonstrated in national regional and local government policy.


The recent Urban Parks Assessment undertaken by the DETR found the shortfall in budgets for public

Greenspace nationally to be in excess of £1.3 billion.


A prescribed methodology for the assessment of playing pitch provision is detailed in “Towards a Level Playing Field” (Sport England, CCPR, 2002). In addition to the assessment methodology, a number of policies to oppose the loss of playing fields are detailed in this guidance document.


The following key documents summarised in Table 1.1 below have provided the impetus for the development and preparation of this strategy. They include:

Table 1.1 - National and Local Planning Guidance Strategic Framework and Assessment

Planning Policy Guidance Note 17. Outlines the importance for local authorities to undertake robust assessments of the local need for quality open spaces. In order to develop local standards which are based on local supply and demand for facilities.
"Living Places - Cleaner, Safer, Greener" (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2002) Gives a commitment to develop a clearer national framework for urban parks and greenspaces.
Urban Greenspaces Task Force "Greenspaces, Better Places" Recognises that parks and open spaces have the potential to make a significant contribution to urban regeneration by making places more liveable and sustainable whilst also enriching the quality of people's lives and local communities
The Framework for Sport England and Mission Possible (The South East Plan for Sport 2004-2008) These documents provide the national sporting context for this study. The importance of a range of facility provision is identified, encompassing formal sporting facilities, and an environment that facilitates informal active recreation.
Thanet District Council Local Plan  The Local plan forms the basis for decisions on planning applications and provides the policies and proposal framework the Council believe will strike the right balance between the need to cater for development requirements across the District and the need to protect and enhance the environmental qualities of the area.
Thanet District Council Corporate Plan 2003-2007

A Vision where Thanet will use all its energy and available resources to make Thanet somewhere that is economically successful, visually attractive, vibrant and stimulating, and a safe place in which to live and work. WE will seek to provide high quality public services that meet the needs of all residents.


The Corporate Plan identifies the following links with open space and indoor sport and recreation:

  • Increase take up of council allotment plots by 10% by March 2005 and a further 10% by 2006.
  • Increase active recreation within the local population by 5% by April 2005.
  • Develop and agree a new strategy for leisure investment in Thanet by March 2005 and implement the Strategy from April 2005 - March 2010.
  • Implement The North East Kent European Marine Sites Management Scheme until June 2006 which seeks an effective balance between nature conservation, coastal management and leisure/tourism uses and which links to the Environmental Action Programme. Implement recommendations by March 2008.
Thanet Community Strategy 2004

The Vision 'A prosperous, secure and welcoming community. A safe, attractive place to live and work, Realising Thanet's potential'. The key themes are:

  • The economy
  • Lifelong Learning
  • A safer Community
  • The Environment & Housing
  • An Inclusive Community
  • Health and Lifestyle

Health and Lifestyle Targets

  • Year 1 target increase active recreation within the local population by 5% by April 2005.
  • Year 1 actions Prepare and implement Thanet Walking Strategy. Promote and increase the number of employer based Bike User Group (BUGs), and Cycling for Health Scheme participants. Increase the uptake of sport and exercise opportunities through the GP referral scheme.
  • Mid term targets 3-5 years Development of new community sports facilities, increase the number of schools taking part in the Healthy Schools programme.
  • Long term goals Decrease child obesity, increase participation in sport and exercise across all age groups.

Environment and Housing - Wild Life Coast & Countryside Targets

  • 1 Year Target - Increase number of entries for the Thanet Wildlife Gardening Awards by 5% by April 2005
  • 1 Year Actions - Promote wildlife gardening across Thanet through the Wildlife Gardening Awards.
  • Produce Thanet Nature Conservation Strategy.
  • Mid Term Target(s) - Increase the extent of semi-natural habitats within Thanet by 3-5 yrs) 5% by 2009.
  • An agreed way forward to be decided on the problem of sewage pollution off the Thanet coast (Foreness Point and Tivoli Brook) by 2006.
  • Mid Term Actions - Implement the management scheme for the Thanet Coast (North East Kent European Marine Sites action plan) by 2005-06.
  • Lobby authorities to reduce damage to habitats caused by sewage pollution in Thanet.
  • Long Term Goals - Increase habitats to provide wildlife havens

Environment and Housing - Public Open Space Targets

  • 1 Year Target - Improve the horticultural features in Town Centres and on roundabouts, which are in high profile locations, by April 2005.
  • 1 Year Actions
  • Re-landscape roundabouts on entrance roads to Thanet.
  • Complete Tree Planting Project.
  • Investigate town centre improvements through landscaping.
  • Implement new maintenance management of town centre flower bed areas.
  • Mid Term Target(s) - Completion of Thanet residents' "Improving Your Space" (3-5 yrs) projects by 2007.
  • Implement recommendations and actions from the Open Spaces Strategy by April 2007.
  • Improve biodiversity of Council owned land where possible by April 2008.
  • Mid Term Actions - Thanet Council to work with community to ensure delivery of "Improving Your Space" projects (funded by New Opportunities Fund, through LSP).
  • Designate areas for wildlife in relevant public open spaces.
  • Long Term Goals
  • To apply for Green Flag status for one major park in Thanet.

Of equal importance is the need for the study to reflect the local context, to ensure that whilst the principles of the audit and assessment correspond with national policies and legislation, the outcomes of the study clearly link with the local issues, inform planning policy, and support achievement of the corporate priorities in Thanet. This approach has been adopted to ensure that the study sets out a clear way forward for the Council, and its partners, for the future development, provision protection and delivery of open space, sport and recreation as part of the overall regeneration and development of the District, for the benefit of local people.