How can the planning system help to meet the sporting needs of local communities?

Understanding the context

Providing the right facilities in the right place is vital to help people maintain and increase their participation in sport. Achieving this relies on a planning system that plans positively for sport, understands the sporting needs of the community and places significant weight on the benefit of sport. These elements are reflected in the Government’s requirements for planning for sport and recreation set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Local authorities play the key role in how sport is provided for through the planning system. This includes undertaking assessments of need, developing planning policy, determining planning applications, proposing development and providing advice to others developing planning applications and engaging in the planning system.

Undertaking this role is challenging given the current resource constraints within local government, along with the significant recent reforms to and competing pressures within the planning system. However, by working together the planning and sport sectors can ensure this role is effective in helping to meet the sporting needs of local communities and realising the wider benefits that participation in sport can bring.

How can Sport England help?

Sport England provides a range of planning guidance and tools to assist local authorities and other parties. These can be found in the Planning for Sport section and include:

  • Aims and Objectives Guide – sets out Sport England’s aims and objectives within the planning system and how these are supported by the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework
  • Forward Planning Guide – provides guidance on the development of planning policy for sport, particularly within local plans
  • Development Management Guide – provides advice on how sport should be considered by those involved in preparing, assessing and determining planning applications which either affect existing or propose new sporting provision
  • Planning Applications – provides information on Sport England’s engagement with, and assessment of, planning applications. This includes our role as a statutory consultee on planning applications affecting playing field land and as a non-statutory consultee on a range of other applications. These pages also contain other useful documents and tools such as model planning conditions, a template community use agreement and our sports appeals database
  • Assessing Needs and Opportunities Guide – provides a recommended approach that will help the user undertake a robust assessment of the need for indoor and outdoor sports facilities. This guide points to our Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance for the recommended approach for playing pitches
  • Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance – provides a recommended step-by-step approach to assess the need for natural and artificial grass playing pitches and develop and apply a strategy to improve provision.

Other planning-related guidance and tools developed by Sport England to assist those involved in planning for sport include:

  • Active Design – an innovative set of design guidelines to promote opportunities for sport and physical activity in the design and layout of development
  • The Facilities Planning Model – a model which helps to assess the strategic provision of community sports facilities
  • Active Places Power – a series of advanced analytical tools to help improve the strategic planning and provision of sports facilities
  • The Sports Facilities Calculator – helps to estimate the demand for key community sports facilities that may be created by a given population.

What's the result?

Using Sport England’s planning guidance and tools will help to ensure:

  • A positive and planned approach to the provision for sport within the planning system
  • A clear understanding of the sporting needs of the local community and how this can be applied to the development of planning policy and infrastructure planning
  • Robust planning policies and assessments of related planning applications
  • Greater involvement by, and engagement with, the sporting community in the planning system.

By achieving the above points the planning system in a local area will be well placed to help to meet the sporting needs of local communities and provide the right facilities in the right place.