Inclusivity: it’s all about the numbers

The new Activity Alliance strategy is an important document but real change for disability inclusion sport requires a counter-intuitive approach to what is not only a sector of society that consistently misses out but also a significant market sector. John Eady makes the social and business case for inclusivity.


The Covid crisis has spawned a whole range of challenges and reassessments, not least access to, and the importance of, being physically active. Across the UK the pandemic has had a real impact on activity levels and for every heart-warming story of people discovering the joys of the great outdoors there are many more (largely untold) tales of those for whom lockdown has reinforced the absence of, or further limited, their opportunities to be active.

This is highlighted by data presented by the Activity Alliance, the national charity for disability inclusion sport. Its new three-year strategy, titled Achieving Fairness, takes access to opportunity for activity as its starting point and cites a poll in which 72% of disabled people agree that lockdown has made this less fair for disabled people.

Addressing declining levels of activity for disabled people is a main strand of the strategy but the Activity Alliance rightly reminds us that the problem existed before the Covid-19 crisis; before the pandemic disabled people were twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people.

Achieving Fairness sets out the ambition to close this activity gap “within a generation” and explains how the Activity Alliance intends to do this. There are two clear goals: changing attitudes towards disabled people and embedding inclusive practice in sport and activity. These inform four key objectives: championing the voices of disabled people; using expertise and insight to educate, inform and influence; addressing inequalities via collaboration, engagement and delivery; and maximising the effective use of investment.

This is all very well but there is an argument that this strategy is a little too measured (or perhaps unmeasured) in its challenge to sport and leisure providers. The sport and leisure sector needs to be challenged and the key to genuine inclusivity for disabled people lies in the numbers. For example, 18% of the working-age population in Britain is disabled, as defined as by the Equality Act 2010 [Source: Employers’ Forum on Disability]. So, even leaving out older people (among whom this the proportion rises substantially) and the under 18s, there is a market of seven million people with spending power, a market that is, to a substantial degree, unserved.

Where I would take issue with the Activity Alliance is its headline aim related to changing attitudes to disability and disabled people. The fact that its polling shows that 85% of adults agree that attitudes to disability need to improve is, I would argue, indicative of a general positivity. The real problem is a Rumsfeld-ian one: in the most part those who matter don’t know what they don’t know.

This lack of knowledge, context and comprehension has a direct effect. Providers and those who are (or should be) charged with responsibility to make a relevant offer to attract and accommodate disabled people have no concept of the overall scale of the market in their locality; nor do many have a clear idea, in performance terms, of what attracting an appropriate proportion of the ‘disability market’ should look like.

It is simply insufficient to have facilities accessible to, and staff trained to work with, disabled people if no one with a disability is turning up. Why shouldn’t facility operators and other deliverers of services commissioned by local authorities be charged with responsibility to attract and entertain a predetermined proportion of this market?

That said, it is also incumbent upon local authorities in particular, but also others, to start to develop and facilitate communications mechanisms that enable people with disabilities and other defined needs to be ‘in the system’, offering the option to know about, attend or at the very least turn down options to take part.

Sam Orde, the chair of Activity Alliance, is quite right when he says, “It is not right or fair that disabled people continue to miss out on the huge benefits of being active.” But it not just a case of the sport and leisure sector failing to serve the needs of a significant part of the community. Disabled people as a ‘market’ are simply not on the radar so it is hardly surprising that not enough is being done to cater for them. In addition, ignoring or excluding a major market sector is bad business and a failure of fiscal responsibility.

The key to inclusivity is for the sport and leisure sector to place the right to be informed alongside the practical commercial value of the one fifth of the population that has a disability. Embedding inclusive practices within sport and physical activity requires what some may see as a counter-intuitive approach. Instead of treating disabled people as a sector of the community that needs help, the sport and leisure sector should, perhaps, treat disabled people as a market sector estimated to spend £80 billion per year [Source: DWP], a sector to be targeted using all the modern marketing technology and techniques at our disposal.

Being inclusive is about the numbers. If 20% the catchment area for your facilities has a disability, how many disabled users and members should you have? And how many have you got? In the gap lies the key to greater inclusivity, better business, improved social return on investment and achieving fairness.


John Eady is chief executive at KKP

Find the Activity Alliance online at http://www.activityalliance.org.uk/

Find the Achieving Fairness strategy document via the Activity Alliance website at http://www.activityalliance.org.uk/about-us/our-work/strategy



June 2021

Chiltern Leisure Centre: how co-location, synergy and sustainability is shaping the future of leisure facilities

David McHendry explains how KKP has helped shape a vision for a new kind of community facility and a new approach to sustainability.


Chiltern Pools had presented the then Chiltern District Council with a problem familiar to many local authorities across the UK. Built in 1965, the centre was showing its age, not only aesthetically but also structurally. Key parts of the building required urgent repair or replacement and it had become uneconomic to maintain and run over the long term.

Having previously delivered the Authority’s sports facilities strategy, KKP was appointed to assess the options in respect of a new community leisure centre hub project in Amersham to replace Chiltern Pools plus other older community buildings on the wider site. We delivered a detailed feasibility evaluation, outline costs and plans for a high-quality venue that would enhance usage and programme breadth, substantially improve income generation and reduce ongoing maintenance costs.

The new building will offer a wide range of sport, leisure and community facilities, including:

  • 8-lane 25m competition pool
  • teaching/diving pool
  • children’s splash pad
  • café
  • fitness suite/dance studios/spin studio
  • sports hall
  • squash courts
  • climbing wall and bouldering
  • spa zone and treatment rooms
  • clip ‘n’ climb kids zone
  • soft play and party rooms
  • library
  • community hall and meeting rooms
  • children’s pre-school provision.

On behalf of the Council, KKP then launched a full public consultation process. This included developing consultation materials, organising and attending numerous public and stakeholder meetings, utilising social media and conducting an online survey, all underpinned by extensive local publicity. This secured an excellent response rate of nearly 2,500 responses.

This demonstrated to local residents and users that it was possible to sensitively fit the range of co-located facilities included on the preferred site while ensuring that the integrity of adjacent open space and the needs of the many interested stakeholders were met. The result was strong support from elected members and the community for the proposed specification.

The Chiltern Lifestyle Centre project demonstrates the benefits of co-location and the synergy achieved by a complementary range of community-focused activities brought together under one roof. One key operational challenge was to ensure that key user groups would be able to benefit from a centralised catering offer and extensive ancillary facilities without losing their identity. This has been achieved within the new design.

The new facility will operate as a community hub accommodating a wide range of activities and users, from sports clubs, U3A programmes and community groups to diving and competition swimming, fitness and a spa offering. The balance of commercially focused and community activity will ensure that it operates at a healthy surplus.

KKP supported the Council to develop the scheme in more detail and test the various adjacencies and co-location advantages of/for various groups and activities. We also led on the consultation and negotiation with Fields in Trust and the Town Council in respect of the need to reconfigure the town’s protected open space to enable the development. The Lifestyle Centre, along with the improvements to the centres at Chesham and Chalfont St Peter, will significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Working on this options appraisal/feasibility scheme was an exciting and testing project for the KKP team. It enabled us to demonstrate the breadth of our  expertise in concept development and testing, financial modelling and in the delivery of complex design requirements, extensive public consultation and innovative business solutions. Now being taken forward by the new Buckinghamshire Council, we can’t wait to see it welcome its first visitors towards the end of 2021.


David McHendry is managing director at KKP.

Contact David at david.mchendry@kkp.co.uk



April 2021

Open spaces assessment and strategy: the role of open space in planning new development

Chris MacFarlane explains how KKP has helped two local authorities assess the role of open space in the planning of new residential developments.


The open space assessment and strategy undertaken by KKP on behalf of the boroughs of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury was a large-scale project that recognised and demonstrated the importance of green space and recreational provision in the planning of major residential developments.

This project was a substantial joint commission on behalf of two adjacent local authorities and the study, along with the underpinning audit findings, were an important element of both councils’ local plans. The project was also an integral part of identifying and regulating their open space infrastructure.

The context of this open space assessment and strategy was a joint core strategy based upon the need to develop 20,000-plus new homes across the area, plus further homes in Gloucester. In addition to the preparation and justification of open spaces standards, the project incorporated specific work linked to the green spaces and recreational provision, as well as the social sustainability needs of major new settlements, including one comprising 5,000-plus dwellings on the border of the two authorities.

The assessment reports used information gathered from extensive local research, site assessments and consultation with a wide range of key agencies, parish councils and community representatives. Combined with exhaustive data analysis and GIS mapping, the reports provided analysis of demand based upon population distribution, planned growth and consultation findings to provide detail of provision across the area, its condition, distribution and overall quality.

In addition to producing evidence to inform the two local plans and linked supplementary planning documents, KKP produced a specific toolkit for the two authorities setting out exactly how best to utilise, interpret and translate the information provided to set local standards and inform Section 106 and CIL-based developer contributions. This is providing a basis for securing open space facilities through new housing development and informing negotiation with developers for contributions towards the provision of appropriate open space facilities and their long-term maintenance.

The Cheltenham and Tewkesbury project is just one of some 30 open spaces assessments and strategies produced by KKP over the last few years on behalf of clients ranging from London boroughs (including Wandsworth and Richmond-on-Thames), core cities (such as Liverpool) to highly rural districts (including Copeland) and authorities within or incorporating parts of England’s national parks.


Chris MacFarlane is a principal consultant with KKP.


Contact Chris at christopher.macfarlane@kkp.co.uk

Sport England’s Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance: how KKP is using it to help local authorities develop better projects and deliver improved results

Andrew Fawkes explains the background to this process and how it can enable local authorities to plot a course for physical activity and sport through choppy waters.


Knight, Kavanagh and Page (KKP) has now delivered six Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance (SOPG) diagnostic reports in the last year and is about to commence on a comparable equity impact assessment in Tameside and another, which will be considering the issues in a Welsh context, for Bridgend. Application of this guidance, and the associated research and consultation, is definitely helping these authorities to articulate the connections and contributions of sport and physical activity to their wider objectives.

The SOPG is essentially a four-step guide which enables the development of an effective case for investment in physical activity and sport. Its four headline themes are:

  • develop shared local strategic outcomes for your place
  • understand your community and your place
  • identify how the outcomes can be delivered sustainably
  • secure investment commitment to outcome delivery.

Sport England’s new 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, places tackling inequality (which has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic) at the heart of its approach. This reinforces the need for local authorities to work collaboratively across their own key services and with external agencies to articulate a clear role for physical activity and sport in the delivery of broader local and corporate outcomes.

In the light of the financial and operational strain that Covid-19 continues to cause on health, mental health, adult social care and education services, the themes of sustainable recovery and local authority understanding of the positive mental and physical health impact of built leisure assets and related services to local communities are central to this work.

KKP’s role in the process is to assess, gauge and articulate the evidence presented by council staff, health professionals, community practitioners and local authority elected members with regard to the often significant public health challenges faced. Many councils are, for example, trying to work out how to tackle the often very significant gaps in healthy life expectancy between key local neighbourhoods.

Evidence gathered via consultation is supplemented by analysis of strategic documents, such as the authority’s local plan, health and wellbeing strategy or sport/leisure facilities strategy, to provide a rounded assessment of the point the council has reached on its journey along the SOPG path.

In terms of what ‘good’ looks like, we have found that the insight provided by external partners, such as housing associations, public health practitioners and social prescribers, often delivers the best insight into the extent to which a place either meets the requirements of the SOPG guidance or where there are gaps. Rossendale Connected is an excellent example of the type of community response to the pandemic that has provided telling insight to the SOPG process.

Not every local authority can approach the four-step process in a linear fashion, especially given the current volatile environment and the fact that they have essentially been in crisis mode over the past 12 months.

However, our diagnosis can, for example, confirm the findings of a pre-existing built facility strategy that clearly sets out where new-build leisure provision should be placed while at the same time pointing out that further insight is needed to help specify exactly what type of physical activity will be preferred by local residents as they emerge from a lengthy period of restrictions.

What makes KKP the best option for advising a local authority on the SOPG journey? A key strength is the emphasis placed on, and the effort applied to, the consultation phase. This is allied to the depth of experience and expertise within our team.

In addition, all our work emphasises the high value of interpersonal conversations with stakeholders and key officers. This is analysed alongside the collection and analysis of all available data to create a complete project picture. Presentation is then underpinned by illustrative and informative maps generated by our sector-leading GIS team.

There is little doubt that the SOPG process is having a positive impact by assisting local authorities to adopt a clear, strategic and sustainable approach to investment in sport and physical activity facilities and services.


Andrew Fawkes is a principal consultant at KKP.


Rossendale Connected: http://rossendaleconnected.org/

NEWS RELEASE: KKP maintains ISO 9001 certification record


ISSUE DATE: 9 March 2021

KKP maintains ISO 9001 certification record
15 successive years of quality assurance for sport and leisure sector’s leading consultancy practice


KKP has confirmed its 15th successive year of ISO 9001 certification. Announcement of the award comes after a short, Covid 19-related delay in the award’s operations and represents an unbroken record of success for the sport and leisure sector’s longest-established consultancy practice.

The latest ISO 9001 certification reflects KKP’s commitment to excellence and the merits of the company’s associated support structures, with ISO assessors describing KKP’s project management process as “excellent… premier league standard”.

David McHendry, KKP managing director, commented: “We were delighted to receive confirmation of the latest certification. It reflects the high levels of effort put in by every member of our team. KKP has always put commitment to quality at the centre of its approach. Quality draws upon a wide range of skills and behaviours but we believe attitude, communication and a commitment to achieving the best for our clients are the foundations upon which it is built.”

McHendry continued: “KKP first acquired ISO 9001 quality certification for project management, systems and delivery in 2007. We have been successfully reassessed every year since. ISO drives continual review and improvement across all work areas, subjecting us to regular interrogation and oversight by expert external assessors. Ultimately, however, the quality of our operation is judged by our clients. This has been the basis of KKP’s approach for more than 30 years and it continues to drive what we do.”

This renewed ISO 9001 certification follows KKP’s Cyber Essentials accreditation in January this year. It is another aspect of the company’s commitment to offering the highest possible quality of service to clients.

Notes for editors

  • David McHendry and John Eady are available for interview. Please contact KKP via (0)161 764 7040 or email mail@kkp.co.uk
  • Full details of KKP, including its projects and clients, are available at www.kkp.co.uk
  • ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organisation with a membership of 165 national standards bodies.
  • ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family of quality management standards that can be certified. ISO 9001 is based on seven quality management principles: customer focus; leadership; engagement of people; process approach; improvement; evidence-based decision-making; and relationship management.
  • Cyber Essentials is a government-backed scheme to help organisations guard the organisation and their clients against cyber attacks.