Councils join forces for major study

Neighbouring Councils, Winchester City and East Hampshire District, have joined forces to commission a major study of the open space, sports and recreational needs of their areas.

The project will look at residents' needs and opportunities to provide for parks, outdoor sport facilities, children's play areas, space for teenagers, leisure centres, recreational routes, community halls, allotments, and more.

Its depth and coverage will be greater than any other previous recreation study undertaken by either Council. Part of the cost of the study is being met by Sport England.

The study will identify existing, unmet and future needs that can be tackled through the councils' planning and leisure policies. It will examine the quantity and quality of provision and means of access in both towns and villages.

Inspace Planning Ltd have been commissioned to consult widely through questionnaire surveys, meetings and focus groups with local residents, town and parish councils and local clubs, associations and organisations. They will gather opinions and views on existing and desired provision.  There will also be a detailed audit of all indoor and outdoor open spaces, sport and recreation facilities.

Cllr Barry Lipscomb, Winchester City Council's Portfolio Holder for Planning & Transport, said, "This work is essential to creating the right sort of recreation opportunities for our communities over the coming years. There is new housing development planned in both Council areas and we are determined to ensure that this is serviced by proper supporting leisure opportunities and attractive open spaces.   Having reliable local evidence will help us greatly to achieve that."

Councillor Patrick Burridge of East Hampshire District Council agrees. "This is an excellent time to undertake such a study, with the growing emphasis on healthy living and recognition of the contribution that good quality, accessible parks, open space and sport and recreation facilities can make to people's quality of life.  Local people's views are vital in helping to show how provision can be improved and the information gathered will provide important evidence to support local planning policies and standards of provision within the emerging Local Development Framework"

The consultation, run by Inspace Planning, will be open and wide ranging. It will cover provision for children and young people, safe access to parks and open spaces for everyone and the need for specialist recreation and sports facilities.

It will take public and private provision into account and will include facilities available from schools and colleges. New facilities and resources can then be planned to complement rather than duplicate existing provision.

The final results are expected in summer 2007.