What will be learned from the case study?
- The value of long term, mutually beneficial partnerships between the local authority and community sports clubs
- Building capacity in fledgling community associations in order to lever external funding for the capital development of assets of sports and community value
- The importance of targeted and ongoing capacity building support, in order to nurture a sustainable community led management solution.
Setting the scene
Pomphrey Hill in Mangotsfield, South Gloucestershire, is the largest council owned playing field in the district. It was developed as part of a local housing scheme and ring road development. A national drive to promote community-owned sports hubs, together with S106 contributions for open spaces for the new development, provided an ideal opportunity for the local authority to explore the option of creating a genuinely community owned and led approach to community and recreation activities.
In order to do so, however, the local authority needed to start from scratch, building a cross-departmental project team to help set up the right legal structures, involving the community in the design process and, finally, supporting them to take on ownership.
As a result of the capacity building work of the council, and the progress made by the new community based organisation, Pomphrey Hill Community Sports Association (PHCSA), will shortly take on a 21 year lease of a new £2.2m state of the art sports pavilion with boxing gym, 10 changing rooms and community room and a license to operate the 12 football pitches, cricket square and strip.
The local authority needed to start from scratch, building a cross-departmental project team and involving the community in the design process
This approach was also mirrored by the local authority in different circumstances at Banjo Island in Cadbury Heath, South Gloucestershire, a priority neighbourhood that ranks high on the indices of local deprivation. In this case the local authority were alerted to the option for community management after calls for longer opening hours to allow teams to warm up and prepare for matches. Again, the local authority's community services team worked with interested volunteers to take them through the process of incorporation and asset management issues.
As a result, Banjo Island Community and Sports Association (BICSA), a charity and company limited by guarantee, now manages the 3 football pitches, cricket square and two buildings that comprise changing rooms, community rooms, a community cafe, preschool and information centre. The organisation has since gone on to employ a local development worker.
Whilst the call to action in each scheme was different, the approach to asset transfer was similar insofar as the council took an actively supportive role in creating community associations to manage the facilities.
"We started by putting out a call to local clubs to see who was interested in running the sites", says community sports manager, Kim Hazeldine. "From that we worked with them to develop a plan of action and build capacity within the group, identifying areas that needed strengthening and taking them all the way through the journey to incorporation and business planning. We are there for the long haul."
In the case of Pomphrey Hill, the local authority asked local clubs interested in being based at the site and taking on the management of the association for sports development plans, asking them to explain how they would run the club as a profitable enterprise that would contribute to the building's maintenance and upkeep.
A consortium approach towards the management of the facility was gradually developed. Five clubs were eventually chosen and were actively involved in the development of the new pavilion, (which was funded from £1.6m in S106 contributions for open spaces, £422,000 from the Football Foundation and £58,000 from the clubs themselves).
We started by putting out a call to local clubs to see who was interested in running the sites
Kim Hazeldine, community sports manager, South Gloucestershire Council
The Council supported the creation of PHCSA, which is made up of representatives of each of the five clubs, (3 football clubs, 1 cricket club and 1 boxing club), and chaired by a local independent community champion who had recently led the successful redevelopment of a nearby community centre.
The local authority's commitment to the new association extended to joining them at monthly meetings, supporting their input to the design process and working with them to incorporate as a company limited by guarantee and charity, recruiting appropriately skilled trustees to plug skills gaps and developing a viable business and sports development plan.
"You couldn't ask for more support", says Alan Maggs, Chair of PHCSA. The council's support team was made up of officers from community sports, open spaces, community projects and a buildings project officer, ensuring a widespread commitment throughout the council.
"The council as a whole is committed to genuine asset transfer", says George Kousouros, community projects manager. "We have an overarching asset transfer strategy that this work fits into and we don't transfer the building until we know that the community have the tools to manage it well. We don't do liability transfer."
PHCSA is due to take on a 21 year lease shortly and has been using the sports pitches via a licence for 2 years.
"It isn't a quick process", says Kim Hazeldine. "We started all this over 5 years ago and have certainly had some ups and downs, but it's well worth it in the end."
Banjo Island Community and Sports Association
Banjo Island Community and Sports Association (BICSA) was formed following requests to the council to open the site for longer hours. Once again, significant work has gone into supporting the capacity of the association to manage the facilities. The association is open to all sports and recreation clubs in the area and currently includes three local football clubs. It is managed via a license agreement with a view to transferring the facilities on a long lease once they have been rebuilt.
George Kouskouros explains: "The second building isn't fit for purpose and the council currently has to subsidise it. If we handed it over in that condition, even with the best business plan in the world, you’d be making a loss".
The plan instead is to sell a neighbouring site that houses the youth service in another old building to raise the funds to build a state of the art new youth and community centre that can be transferred to BICSA on a long lease. Again, the message is 'no quick fixes'.
"We've been working with Banjo Island for over 6 or 7 years now", says Kim, "and we're still a few years off being able to transfer the building. But we're all determined that it will happen."
Outcomes and impact
Enthusiasm and confidence amongst the members who make up the volunteer boards is high. Although Pomphrey Hill have yet to capture data around participation numbers, (the new building with its changing rooms has only just opened), they predict participation to increase dramatically as relationships with the neighbouring school, (to whom they lease space), become better established.
"Most clubs get moved around all the time," says Alan Maggs. "But now all our member clubs have a home! We can plan for the future. It has had a huge impact on the confidence of the club managers and is a source of great pride for the players, whose numbers look set to increase as a result."
We don't transfer the building until we know that the community have the tools to manage it well
George Kouskouros, community projects manager, South Gloucestershire Council
The association is also open to new applications from other sports clubs with a view to extending the sports facilities on offer at the site.
At Banjo Island, management of the site by the community association has led to unanticipated community benefits. The club house has been partially converted to provide both meeting rooms and community space at weekends and the association now provides pre-school facilities during the week as well as changing rooms for players, whilst the old clubhouse is now used as a community cafe and information centre.
What started as the management of a sports facility has led to the beginning of a multi-purpose community enterprise in the heart of one of South Gloucestershire's most deprived communities. This new opportunity looks set to be realised with the plans to demolish the old buildings and create in their place a fully fit-for-purpose youth and community centre being developed by the local authority and their community partner.
Kim Hazeldine, Community Sports Manager, South Gloucestershire Council: email@example.com