Community Facilities Working Group

Report on responses received and suggested ways forward

  1. Introduction

The community facilities working group has reviewed those leisure and recreational facilities which enable the wellbeing of the community on many levels. These facilities are provided and supported by a range of organisations both public and voluntary and are part of a wider support structure to enable individuals to lead healthier and happier lives.

The scope of this working group includes both indoor and outdoor sport and health facilities of the Leisure Centre, incorporating the swimming pool, playing fields and sports pitches, youth and play facilities, other green recreational infrastructure such as the Town Park and Rectory Fields, and the allotments. In addition, the library and information centre are included due to their similar role of drawing people from all walks of life together with a common purpose or interest.

In addition to the more ‘formal’ facilities already mentioned, CS is blessed with a prolific number of clubs and societies covering cultural, religious, intellectual, musical and sporting interests, all of which are an invaluable asset in creating community spirit, preventing social isolation and maintaining a sense of community.

As the community looks to re-set post-Covid, and to build a recovery, it will be increasingly important that we invest time, effort and resources to preserve and improve facilities. We have had to cope with unexpected and unwanted pressures since March 2020, and it has become very clear how much we depend on facilities - which we may have taken for granted, until they were closed – for the physical health and mental wellbeing of all of us. We should now be looking to build for the common good and strengthen what we have.

  2. What is meant by Community Facilities?

Community facilities – also referred to as social and community infrastructure – can be defined as physical facilities for different individual and communities, which are provided by a range of organisations (public, private and voluntary). They provide for the health, welfare, social, educational, spiritual, recreational, leisure and cultural needs of the community, and play an important role in the development of vibrant neighbourhoods by creating a sense of place and providing opportunities for people to meet and interact socially.

Community facilities could include the following:

  • Health and social care facilities (including GP surgeries, NHS walk-in centres and local care centres);

  • Leisure and sports facilities;

  • Green infrastructure and heritage assets such as parks, gardens, woodlands, playing fields, allotments, cemeteries, etc.;

  • Transport (including footpaths, bridleways, cycleways, highways, public transport, railways and car parks);

  • Community centres or meeting halls;

  • Youth facilities;

  • Play facilities;

  • Library and information services, including noticeboards etc.;

  • Cultural facilities;

  • Places of worship;

  • Theatres, public art, heritage centres;

  • Public houses;

  • Village shops;

  • Post offices;

  • Schools and other places of learning.

 

(The above is taken from Herefordshire Council’s Neighbourhood Planning Guidance Note 30. Items marked in red are dealt with by other CLP working groups.)

 

The Working Group decided that it should focus on those areas identified in the Residents’ Survey and which were not being addressed by other working groups.


 

  3. Vision statement

More than just a collection of dwellings, businesses and retail outlets, a community is a focus for the shared interest and concerns of its residents, where a commitment to each other and the common good finds expression in a network of joint endeavours. For these to flourish, there needs to be a well-funded infrastructure of shared and cherished public spaces, where people of all stripes can come together, can interact, and develop relationships.

In addition to enhancing the economic viability of the community, such facilities provide for the health, welfare, social, educational, spiritual, recreational, leisure and cultural needs of the neighbourhood. People lead healthier and happier lives; they can develop knowledge and skills as they engage in lifelong learning; they can take part in new activities and learn new skills; they derive a sense of worth from being able to join with others and contribute; they find security from a feeling of being among friends.

Community facilities are dependent on the commitment and engagement of local residents; both provision and governance must reflect their wishes. At the same time, they are part of a network of similar facilities across Shropshire, and should look to the benefits of synergies arising from potential joint enterprises and resourcing.

In a rural county, it must be recognised that providing easy access to facilities is a necessary consequence of geography; geography is not a reason to diminish entitlement. Where, in small communities, there are financial constraints arising from a low revenue base, there must be an expectation of additional support from the larger local authority, for both maintenance and enhancement of provision.

For Shropshire to thrive, we need local communities to flourish too.

We envision the Strettons being an integral part of a wider strategy which seeks to reflect the aspirations of local people, to embed these in a supportive context, and to share a joint commitment to enhance the health and wellbeing of our neighbourhood.


 

  4. Actions undertaken

This working group was established in November 2020 with particular remit to focus on the strategic requirements of the entire CS population in terms of leisure and recreational facilities. The Residents’ Survey of January 2020 identified the following priorities:

  • Community Facilities were a top priority for residents;

  • Particular emphasis was given to the need to preserve and promote - for the whole community and the surrounding area - both the swimming pool and the Library;

  • Frequent mention was made of the need to improve the swimming pool, to make it more attractive to both residents and visitors;

  • The Survey also showed that outdoor leisure facilities were a top priority for households with children.

 

Specific consultations were conducted with the Library Friends and sports clubs.


 

  5. Proposals

     (a) Library

  • All parties (Friends of CS Library, Shropshire Council, CSTC*) to work together:

  • To put the Library on a sound financial footing for the duration of the CLP, creating a viable financial plan;

  • To continue developing the Library as a “community hub” for social, cultural, educational and leisure activities;

  • To improve user numbers by:

  • Producing a plan for marketing and publicity;

  • Targeting specific user groups for library services (e.g. access to subscription sites);

  • To develop links with Mayfair, the Leisure Centre and other groups and organisations in order to extend provision of activities through social prescribing;

  • To enhance the visibility and accessibility of the visitor information function by

  • Closer links to the Visit CS website;

  • Working in partnership with the National Trust Carding Mill, AONB, Visit Church Stretton and the Town Council to produce and maintain a good selection of local information for visitors, e.g, local walks, maps, trails, and nature reserves;

  • Acting as the hub for a distribution network of brochures and leaflets relating to the Strettons;

  • Improved physical signposting in the town to the Visitor Information Centre.

  • In the longer term, to provide a Visitor Information Service six days a week. This could be provided by creating an open access area at the front of the building to deliver the service when the library is closed.

     (b) SHI

  • CSTC should look at ways of developing the SHI as a social and cultural hub;

  • CSTC should actively seek sponsorship;

 

     (c) Town Park

  • CSTC should look to act on the preferences expressed by residents in the Survey conducted in January 2021;

  • In particular, there should be a staged plan to make improvements to facilities, including: updating of play equipment, completion of skatepark, upgrading of BMX track, introduction of outdoor gym equipment, creation of picnic area, ensuring full access to all facilities at weekends;

  • Fuller use of the Park should be encouraged through staging of events;

  • Promotion of the Park’s facilities needs urgent attention, through new signage and inclusion on the website;

  • CSTC should seek grants and sponsorship for improvements;

  • CSTC should develop the use of volunteers to help maintain and manage the park

     (d) Leisure Centre/Pool

  • CSTC should continue to press Shropshire Council to maintain the facilities provision of a fully functioning leisure centre which includes outdoor all weather facilities, a heated indoor swimming pool, fitness suite, indoor sports hall and dance/exercise studio;

  • We believe that a proper Business Plan is essential for the facilities to be put on a sustainable basis, and then further developed;

  • It is vital that the Business Plan is ambitious in its scope, not only in terms of improved provision for current residents (thus making it more attractive), but also in promoting the facilities in the wider area and for visitors to the town;

  • Integrate and embed the Leisure Centre firmly into the heart of the Community by:

    • Developing the Exercise on Referral facility in conjunction with local healthcare providers such as the medical practice;

    • Working with Mayfair to enhance rehab provision, and to develop social prescribing;

    • Ensuring that the Leisure Centre caters for more demographics – i.e. mothers and young children, teenagers, and older residents through the promotion and timetabling of appropriate activities and through investment in specific facilities/infrastructure;

    • Enabling a cycle hub to be situated here for easy bike hire for cycling in the area;

    • Establishing a cohort of volunteers to work with the Leisure Centre staff to liaise with local voluntary organisations and clubs to provide facilities as required

     (e) Playing Fields

  • CSTC should actively investigate all sources of funding for their maintenance and improvement;

  • The Sports Forum (see below) would provide essential opportunities for bringing users together to work for improvement;

     (f) Rectory Field/Coppice Leasowes

  • CSTC should continue to encourage and promote the engagement and activities of Interest Groups;

  • We recommend that CSTC and the Interest Groups work together to promote these sites through advertising and the provision of signage (both in terms of directional signs and with explanatory boards. Wildlife trails would be welcome, as would a track for disabled buggies and wheelchairs.)

     (g) Sports and Pastimes

  • We recommend the establishment of a Sports Forum, to bring together the various clubs and organisations, and to give them a powerful voice in future developments. We believe that much could be gained from the sharing of information (e.g. on grants, sponsorship, good practice, etc.). Shared initiatives (like the Community Games) are opportunities to promote activities and gain new members. (We recognise the reluctance of various groups to be involved in additional meetings and/or bureaucracy, and suggest that the Forum should start as a digital network for the sharing of information, and urge that steps be taken to identify someone to coordinate this.)

  • The Sports Forum should link actively with the Health and Social Care Forum in the promotion of healthy, active lifestyles;

     (h) Promotion

  • To be economically viable, a small town like Stretton needs visitors. This applies not just to shops, but to all the other facilities above.

  • There needs to be a strong push to promote the facilities in the Strettons, through proper signage, through brochures, websites. (Visiting the Strettons ought to be about more than walking in the Shropshire Hills – we want visitors to use the Leisure Centre, the Pool, the tennis courts etc.)

  • New signage is needed: large green signs on the A49 directing towards the town and its various facilities, as well as signs within the town;

  • Information leaflets on the facilities need to be available in shops, B&Bs etc.

  • The Visit Church Stretton website needs to be fully populated;

     (i) Funding:

  • Since it is likely that future funding will be usage dependent, it is vital that the community continues to support and use our leisure and recreational facilities;

  • Improved leisure and recreation facilities, both indoor and outdoor, may in themselves attract visitors to the area. Without the financial input and usage by visitors, it is unlikely that the Strettons will get the quality of facilities that we desire;

  • CSTC should continue to “bang the drum” for rural communities and for the provision, through central funding, of leisure and recreational facilities;

  • CSTC should use its best efforts to mobilise the support of all groups and organisations in the campaign for rural provision, as a counter to the tendency of Shropshire Council to focus attention on larger urban centres;

  • CSTC should continue to investigate alternative models of funding in order to ensure continued provision of facilities.

     (j) General

  • For much of the above, it is recommended that the various partners involved have regard to the “Learning Points” in the Local Government Association’s “Active People, Healthy Places” Report. There is much to be learned, in terms of innovation and partnership practices, for example, from the experiences of other places. Use of volunteers, outsourcing, bringing disparate organisations together to create new synergies, different funding models, sponsorship – all these should be investigated;

  • Given the high proportion of the elderly in the population of the Strettons, we believe that closer attention needs to be given to ensuring that all facilities are fully accessible, and “disabled friendly”, not simply in physical terms but also as regards opening times, for example, and digital access.


 

  6. Conclusions

We believe that the wealth of clubs, societies, and interest groups in the community, and the strong tradition of involvement by volunteers provide a strong basis for future development. The commitment shown by activist groups on behalf of the Swimming Pool and the Library, for example, and the positive effects of their campaigning show what can be achieved by a clear focus and determination.

The first key message in the above proposals is for all groups to build links, as outlined in the Vision Statement. We can learn from each other, and discover ways of working together, for the good of all.

Secondly, we need to mobilise – to an even greater extent – the commitment and good will of all residents. We believe that an active and forward-looking community, with a clear sense of purpose, can not only protect itself against the turbulence of outside events but also drive forward its own agenda.

Thirdly, the working group believes that there are a number of “quick wins”, particularly in the area of promoting existing facilities, for example. We believe that this is crucial for creating a sense of momentum.

This report joins the reports of other groups is seeking, through the Community-Led Plan, to strengthen and enhance the infrastructure of our community, enabling us to face future uncertainties with confidence and hope.


 

  7. References

  • Herefordshire Council, “Neighbourhood Planning Guidance Note 30: Community Facuilties”

  • Friends of Church Stretton Library, “Report for the Community-Led Plan”

  • Local Government Association, “Active people, healthy places” (2017)

  • Sport England, “Uniting the Movement” (2021)

  • Shropshire Council, “Indoor Leisure Facilities Strategy” (2020)

  • All Stretton Village Society, “Submission to Shropshire Council in response to the consultation of Leisure Facilities Strategy 2019-2039”

  • CSTC, “Sandford Avenue Park Survey results”


* CSTC = Church Stretton Town Council
 

10.06.2021

David Howard (Chair/Clerk), Chris Ball, Vicky Munro, Jim Kent, Claire Hatfield