Saturday, 13 August 2022

Millions needed to improve our leisure and sport facilities

MILLIONS of pounds need to be spent on public sport and leisure facilities in the Henley area in order to meet demand, says a new report.

The study was carried out by consultants  on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council, which is responsible for the facilities. It says:

• A £2.34 million sports centre will be needed in Sonning Common. This would involve the renovation of the sports hall at Chiltern Edge School or a new building on site or at Memorial Hall Field, off Reades Lane opposite the school.

• Henley needs a new 3G artificial grass pitch, a new hockey pitch and more floodlit tennis courts.

• Henley leisure centre in Gillotts Lane will need £540,000 of maintenance work between now and 2026.

Nortoft Partnerships, of Northamptonshire, assessed all sports and leisure facilities across the district which is facing the prospect of thousands of new homes over the next 15 years.

New facilities could be funded by developer contributions and with money from the community infrastructure levy.

The report says the facilities at Chiltern Edge need to be renovated or replaced to meet anticipated demand.

“The network of facilities in the district include some where the sports hall quality is poor, or relatively unattractive,” it says. 

“An example of this is the sports hall at Chiltern Edge School. If these facilities could be improved, then they would become more attractive to users and have higher levels of use. In the south there is sufficient capacity for the long term, assuming that the sports hall at Chiltern Edge remains in use but is either replaced or substantially refurbished.”

A new sports centre could be built on Memorial Hall Field, which is being gifted to Sonning Common Parish Council by the owner and has been earmarked for sport and recreational use.

The village’s neighbourhood plan says the area is short of sports facilities, including a community sports hall, floodlit artificial grass pitch, full-sized multi-use games area and youth and mini football pitches.

The Kennylands Gymnastics Centre, currently based at Bird Wood Court, could move to the new centre as it is oversubscribed. It has a membership of more than 1,300 and a long waiting list.

The centre is used at all times of every day.

The report says there needs to be one dedicated gymnastics centre in the south of the district by 2026. This would probably be in Henley but would be a low priority project.

It says the maintenance at Henley leisure entre is set to cost £541,386 between 2016 and 2026. Last year £150,000 was spent on new toilets, changing cubicles, lockers, lighting and vanity units. It was previously refurbished in 2008.

The centre had 181,281 community visits in 2016-17 compared with 158,923 in the previous year. The study says: “The centre has seen a large increase in usage over the previous three years.

“Most of this has been due to more use of the health and fitness, although there has been some increase in the use of the sports hall.”

The report says six new 3G artificial grass pitches are needed across the district, including one in Henley and another in Goring, subject to sites being found and feasibility assessments.

A 3G pitch would also be created in Sonning Common to mitigate the loss of playing fields at Chiltern Edge School to housing development.

The study says there is also an urgent need for an additional hockey pitch in the Henley area.

Henley Hockey Club, based at Jubilee Park, is currently at capacity for adult matches on Saturdays.

The council says floodlights are needed at all the tennis courts in Henley, Goring and Sonning Common and an extra court is needed in Henley. 

Extra floodlit courts are also needed in Watlington (two), Sonning Common and Shiplake (six), Goring (one) and Benson and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell (three).

Lynn Lloyd, the council’s cabinet member for community services, urged residents to respond to the report, adding: “We know how important sport and leisure is to our wellbeing, so it is vital that our planners and developers are well informed.”

The public consultation ends on May 7. To respond, visit survey.southandvale.

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