No longer planning to fail

News that the Government plans to review planning guidance affecting community sports clubs will be received with a warm welcome by those running clubs, according to CCPR.

Following a long campaign by peer Baroness Billingham, supported by CCPR, Lord Davies of Oldham announced yesterday that Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) 17, which covers planning for open space, sport and recreation, would be re-examined with a view to making it easier for sports clubs to develop their facilities.

In the short term it is hoped that local authority planning officers will be encouraged to look at applications made by sports clubs more sympathetically. However, CCPR and Baroness Billingham are optimistic that a review of PPG 17 will mean that the planning system will start to favour sustainable community development at clubs. The new guidance should ensure that objections by what is often only a handful of residents are weighed carefully against the enormous community value added by most club developments.

Brigid Simmonds, Chairman of CCPR, said that today’s announcement showed that ministers are beginning to take the concerns of sports clubs more seriously.

"For too long sports clubs, run on behalf of the community by the community, have had to navigate a way through over-complicated and over-bureaucratic planning processes where the power is often in the hands of a few, well-organised objectors who have little or no concern for the greater good of the towns and villages in which they live. Objectors have the right for their concerns to be heard, but it should not always be at the expense of improving valuable community facilities.

"Simple applications for the erection of floodlights, for example, are often rejected because of nimbyism, despite technology meaning that light pollution can now be a thing of the past. It’s time for planning policy to reflect a change in the times and also how important community clubs are to the fabric of our lives.

"PPG 17 requires local authorities to carry out ‘robust assessments of existing and future needs of their communities for open space, sports and recreational facilities’. There is very little evidence, if any, that local authorities have undertaken these tasks. With the UK’s obesity and overweight crisis, sport and recreation must become the 'new carbon' which requires all government departments should consider when making policy. A review of PPG 17 is a very good place to start."