Big hike in sports facility hire fees and playground changes not ruled out following consultation

(Title Image: Bridgend Council)

Later this week a Bridgend Council scrutiny committee will discuss the outcome of a highly-publicised consultation on the future of sports pitches, playing fields and sports pavilions in the county (pdf).

BCBC’s policy has long been to encourage Community Asset Transfer (CAT) whereby community councils or sports clubs take on responsibility for the upkeep of local sports facilities themselves. As of August 2019, just 4 CATs had been completed with a further 13 at the final stages of approval.

The public consultation – which ended in July – was launched under the expectation that BCBC will save/cut £369,000 from these facilities in 2020-21. The headline results from that consultation were:

  • 94% of residents value fixed playgrounds/play equipment, with 57% saying they were willing to travel up to a mile to access such facilities.
  • 56% disagreed with a proposal to focus on “strategic” play areas (as opposed to those in residential areas) and 64% agreed that vandalised equipment should be repaired.
  • 71% supported community councils taking over responsibility for local play areas, while 47% and 43% agreed that community councils and sports clubs respectively should take on responsibility for playing fields/sports pitches and pavilions. 50% also agreed that community groups taking over facilities should be allowed to put up perimeter fences.
  • 51% agreed with a proposal to reduce grass cutting on open spaces and roadside verges, but 50% disagreed with proposals to reduce grass cutting in parks; 55% also agreed that some grass open spaces should be allowed to “revert to a more natural habitat”.

The report also says that to meet budget requirements, “it will be necessary to review and consider a rationalisation of children’s play areas throughout the County Borough and/or transfer….to Town & Community Councils”.

“Rationalisation” is civil service speak for cuts and closures.

There’ll be a huge nudge for sports clubs in particular (and community councils) to take over these assets. This is the possible fee structure from next April, which in some cases will see hire fee increases of more than 400% compared to now (pdf):

BCBC’s Cabinet will have to make the final decision, but the direction of travel is pretty clear.

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