Optimising the value of your strategic planning

In its Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance, Sport England states that ’a strategic approach to sport and physical activity services and provision, which identifies and delivers local priorities, can make such a difference’. It notes that ‘a clear, strategic and sustainable approach can play an important role in making sure that investments into services and facilities are effective’.

Professor Cliff Hague, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh quoted on the RTPI website states that “today there are 180,000 more people living in urban areas than there were yesterday. There will be another 180,000 there when you wake up tomorrow and another 180,000 the day after that”. While this might be over-stating the case it does focus attention upon the way in which urban areas are expanding.

The RTPI notes that ‘planning is about people, places and sustainability’ and ‘improving public health and living conditions’. There is no doubt that the demand created by population changes, housing growth and the stresses of everyday life necessitate leisure provision of a scale and quality to cater for the sporting, active recreation, health, wellbeing and relaxation needs of the community.

With this in mind, and in looking to ensure that they obtain maximum value for money, local authorities are increasingly commissioning indoor and built sports facilities (IBF), playing pitch and outdoor sports facilities (PPOSS) and open/green spaces (OSS) needs assessments and strategies via a single overarching commission – a full suite. Many are also now teaming up with neighbouring authorities to do this.

The key benefits of full suite leisure needs assessments include:

  • Simultaneous, consistent assessment of the quality and value of related, linked and adjacent leisure and open space resources.
  • Ensuring that the way in which local authorities plan for their indoor, outdoor, formal and informal recreational facilities reflects commitments made with regard to the health and wellbeing of their communities.
  • The opportunity to work with officers and members to improve their collective focus on, and generate detailed appreciation of, local needs and priorities and the importance of provision at authority level.
  • More efficient council officer (and member) focus and use of time and resource.
  • Adoption of ‘joined up’ cohesive approaches to securing and making most effective use of S.106 and Community Infrastructure Levy funds.
  • Improved cross-disciplinary consideration of smaller (and more dispersed) outdoor, countryside and water sports plus active lifestyles and active travel related issues. (This is also attractive to key stakeholders such as Sport England).
  • In addition to actively demonstrating the duty to co-operate, joint authority commissions tend to engender and enhance cross-boundary planning in respect of optimising investment in leisure infrastructure and meeting sub-regional spatial planning demand for housing.
  • Reduced procurement time, effort, and cost

Because of the breadth of our skills and knowledge base and company capacity, KKP has been delivering these cross-disciplinary studies for 15+ years. Early examples of joint authority work include assignments delivered for Worthing and Adur councils in West Sussex, for Cheltenham and Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire (linked to a major cross-border urban extension) and for the three central Lancashire authorities of Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.

Our portfolio of full suite assignments includes local authorities as diverse as Wirral, East Suffolk, Wyre Forest, Kettering, South Hertfordshire (a combination of Three Rivers, Dacorum and Hertsmere), Staffordshire Moorlands & High Peak (joint commission) and Manchester. We are following this with an innovative assessment specifically related to BMX, skateboarding and action sport provision in the City.

Current full suite clients include Warrington, Wyre. St Helens, the new West Northamptonshire unitary authority, Colchester and Tendring. The latter comprise a joint authority needs assessment and strategy linked to a planned cross-boundary major garden village development.

Full suite and joint commissioning also delivers substantial economies of scale, particularly with regard to site audit and evaluation. Client savings for a full suite of studies for a single authority commission can amount to 10-15% of combined costs with this increasing further when authorities commission jointly.

If you would like to discuss this further with one of our experts – get in touch.


John Eady is the CEO of KKP.