KKP

Pools in crisis: rethinking the future

Swim England’s recent report, A Decade of Decline, paints a bleak picture of the future of swimming provision, challenging national and local government to recognise the need to replace ageing pools. Rachel Burke considers whether the thinking process might be just as important as the numbers.

 

Swim England’s recent report, titled A Decade of Decline: the Future of Swimming Pools in England, has highlighted the increasing pressure on sport and leisure facility finances. Coming at the stage of the Covid crisis that it did, the report has secured extensive coverage and raised the issue of the need for investment in facilities and opportunities to swim and be physically active.

It noted that more than 200 pools have closed, either temporarily or permanently, since the pandemic began and predicts that continuation of the current trend could see a 40% reduction in the number of pools in England by the end of the decade. Some 1,800 could be lost and, Swim England argues, too few new pools are being built to replace the facilities built and opened in the 1960s and 70s.

With the pandemic adding further pressure to stretched local authority finances and with physical activity a demonstrably important factor in mitigating the impact of Covid, Swim England’s predictions and warnings are timely and well founded. However, this is not a new issue. The debate about replacement of pools, in particular those opened at the point of local government reorganisation in the early 1970s, was in full flow well before the end of the 20th century. For the ‘more experienced’ members of the sector, it is sobering to note that even facilities built in 1990 are now more than 30 years old. Given that refurbishment and replacement is part of the natural process of facility management and provision, this problem is not going to go away.

One element of the report that did not gain many column inches (or the digital equivalent) was the emphasis on the importance of needs assessments and feasibility studies. “We encourage local authorities to conduct an analysis of their pool stock to understand whether they have the right pools in the right places to the meet the needs of the community, both now and in the future,” the report states. It also notes the value of Sport England’s Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance (SOPG) and suggests that this should be made available to all local authorities.

This is perhaps the key point of the report. Data gathering and diligent analysis do not often make for attention-grabbing headlines but, as a consultancy practice with a reputation built on delivery of accurate needs assessments, feasibility strategies and supporting clients to implement their findings, KKP is pleased to endorse Swim England’s message. Having worked with numerous local authorities on SOPG, we concur with the value of Sport England’s approach. We also know, from work on projects that vary from the smallest community pools to the largest international multi-pool competition facilities, that getting “the right pools in the right places” is never quite as easy as this phrase makes it sound.

A substantial volume of work goes into the process. While facility development may never be an exact science, the application of extensive dataset/GIS-based demand evaluation, along with club, community and stakeholder consultation and decades of experience, makes for a better chance of delivering attractive, appropriately located, efficient and sustainable facilities that meet community needs and contribute to the wellbeing and liveability of the areas served.

The Decade of Decline report offers a clear challenge to government and local authorities in the face of the harsh realities of sport and leisure provision but it also suggests, albeit indirectly, the need for a new approach. If the closure of old pools is accelerating, new pools are needed and finances are tight, what should we be doing differently?

The obvious starting point is that, in general terms, stand-alone pools have had their day. It may also be that teaching pools (of larger size and with moveable floors) will be the key component of new developments, delivering lessons, a variety of warmer-pool, water-based exercise classes and options to cater imaginatively for the growing number of older people. This may mean some main pools having fewer lanes and becoming more significant adjuncts of the fitness offer as well as catering for club sessions, lane swimming and recreational use.

Swimming pool programming is a significant challenge. Balancing the demands of learn to swim, aquatic club use and casual swimmers is not easy without access to substantial water space. Where water space is limited, there is, in almost every case, an impassioned debate: clubs typically want more pool time for training, while operators are also looking to cater for the needs of casual and recreational swimmers.

The more financially ‘sustainable’ the pool needs to be, the more challenging the programming, especially at peak times. The need for income generation favours (full fee-based) swimming lessons and, to a lesser extent, club use. This can, however, be to the detriment of access for casual swimmers and those who need additional support to gain access to water-based activity.

Next might be a reassessment of the role of school sites. Community use of school facilities has a long history but the recent trend has been away from dual-use offers, in part because of the variety of facility management arrangements now ‘complicating’ this option. Access to existing dry-side school sports facilities, particularly sports halls, is adversely affected by the fact that they are commonly reserved by schools to host exams, school productions and cater for other large-space events.

One question worth asking: with so much housing development pressure on brownfield and green spaces, why not consider taking new pools to schools? In many areas, with the advent of high-capacity artificial grass, they may well have space to site a replacement pool. With good management and intelligent programming, it may be possible to use such a process to bring all their sports provision into more legally binding, accessible, year-round community use.

Larger primary schools may also offer co-location benefits. Where plans are still being drawn up for 1,000-pupil primary schools, why not explore the potential to include a teaching pool, fitness, a sports hall and perhaps a half-size artificial grass pitch and operate this on a joint-use basis with a partner for which extra-curricular time pressures will be far less onerous? The key and significant side benefit would be that learning to swim should receive the priority it surely merits.

Moving onto this issue, if school swimming lesson provision is a primary concern it is surely essential to consider its effectiveness per se. A substantial proportion of programmes take all children whether they can already swim or not, give them limited water time and must accommodate large numbers of pupils. The swimming value of the measured outcome of school swimming reflects its shortcomings. This is a key point because if this does not change, irrespective of the number, quality and modernity of pools, it will be the same children and young people who miss out.

If we are going to invest in pools, some of the programming focus surely needs to be on the people of all ages who cannot currently swim. The investment process and associated scheduling, marketing, pricing, leisure card and contractual management arrangements must balance commercial imperatives with the need to recognise that the majority of people who cannot swim, and therefore cannot enjoy the direct associated benefits that emanate from safety and water confidence, are, and always have been, from low-income families and/or disadvantaged communities.

Seen within the context of the Covid crisis and local government finances, it is undoubtedly true that a great many swimming pools in England and the rest of the UK face an uncertain future. Many need to replaced; even more need refurbishment. A century of investment in public swimming facilities has demonstrated the value of swimming to public health and wellbeing. However, if that investment is to continue it is essential that fundamental questions are asked before more money is ‘poured into the ground’: why do we need pools; who are they for; what should they achieve; how must they be managed and programmed; and what should they look like?

The answers are as varied as the communities and interests that each swimming pool serves but, with a few decades of experience, we know which questions to ask.

 

Rachel Burke is a principal consultant with KKP.

 

A Decade of Decline: the Future of Swimming Pools in England is published by Swim England and available via the Swim England website:

https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/decadeofdecline/

Active travel: a low-key revolution

During the Covid-19 crisis active travel has emerged as one of the leading influences on urban policy and design. Andy Fawkes and Chris MacFarlane consider the background to a renewed focus on public transport, walking and cycling, and why it strikes a chord with so much of KKP’s strategy work.

 

Active travel has always been a fundamental part of KKP’s approach to facility strategies of all kinds and, while some of the terminology may have evolved over the 30-plus years KKP has been working with clients to improve their facilities and environments, the fundamental principles of how and why people move are largely unchanged.

Policy drivers, such as climate emergency, air quality and health inequalities, have been moving active travel up the agenda for many organisations and authorities for some time. The impact and experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic then added a new perspective. Now a different balance between public and private transport has become part of a national debate, with walking and cycling increasingly recognised as more than just a convenient way of getting from A to B for a minority of people.

Travel and transport have always been key components of the processes that underpin KKP’s approach to strategies for indoor and outdoor facilities of all kinds. The four pillars of our strategic approach are quantity, quality, availability and accessibility, making walk and drive times, along with public transport, part of the mix for any project. There is always a balance between car use and active travel but in more densely populated environments walking, riding and taking the bus or tram are important factors.

In recent years central government policy has reflected growing interest in renegotiating the balance between motor traffic and active travel. In 2017 the Department for Transport issued technical guidance for local authorities on local cycling and walking infrastructure plans (LCWIP) with the aim of doubling cycling rates and significantly increasing walking rates by 2025. The guidance encourages councils to deliver better safety, better mobility and better streets “to make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey”.

In July 2020, in the midst of a pandemic that had challenged attitudes to so many aspects of our lives, the Department for Transport published Gear Change, “a bold vision for cycling and walking” that it hopes will bring a “travel revolution in our streets, towns and communities.” It was accompanied by Local Transport Note 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design, providing national guidance for the design and implementation of cycle schemes. For the first time national standards for cycle infrastructure are laid out: “There are five core design principles which represent the essential requirements to achieve more people travelling by cycle or on foot, based on best practice both internationally and across the UK. Networks and routes should be Coherent; Direct; Safe; Comfortable and Attractive.” [LTN 1/20 1.5.1]

The UK’s big cities have been leading the way in accepting the challenge presented by national government policy. Birmingham recently announced proposals to remove through traffic from the city centre, reversing half a century of transport planning decisions that had given primacy to private motor travel. Manchester is well advanced in its plans to promote cycling as part of an extensive reimagining of travel in and around the city. Backed by the mayor, Chris Boardman has used his position as the city’s first transport commissioner to develop and promote the Bee Network, planned to become the UK’s largest walking and cycling network.

Manchester is a good example of the recognition of, and a new emphasis on, the link between active travel and physical activity. The city has a network of sport and leisure facilities that are well used. Facilities with national and international recognition are part of Manchester’s plan to attract visitors and investment but they are also central to an ongoing campaign to encourage and enable local residents to make these centres their own. Greater Manchester’s Moving More strategy is building on the city and region’s achievements in terms of its facilities and transport networks to help address significant health equalities. With car ownership comparatively low, public transport, walking and cycling are important aspects not only of accessibility but also the city’s health.

Beyond the big cities, a shift in recognition of the potential of walking and cycling is also having an impact. The LCWIP guidance is fairly recent in policy terms but it is increasingly part of local authority thinking about travel, accessibility, planning and design. While an LCWIP imposes new requirements on councils, it also has begun to have a positive influence on design and implementation of schemes as well as providing a route to funding.

If architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right and God is in the details, then the new walking and cycling policy documents offer plenty of opportunities to observe the divine. LTN 1/20 has enough detail to entrance even the most dedicated infrastructure aficionado. Setting standards against which every cycle infrastructure project will be judged, LTN 1/20 could, if properly embraced, transform the UK’s cycling landscape. The LCWIP guidance provides a route through the synergies and integrations, including the stakeholders and data, to create a public realm that people can use safely, confidently and enjoyably. The Propensity to Cycle tool within the LCWIP guidance provides access to the skills and abilities required for new approaches to accessible and equitable spaces, offering mapping and impact modelling to assess the impact that policy and design decisions could have. This tool also includes guidance on making the business case for walking and cycling, an essential part of the armoury of change.

Facility planning is always a balance: of buildings and behaviours; of mapping and mindsets. These new policies, both national and local, driven by issues of transport, health and environment have begun to shape the planning process and have the potential to change the way our towns and cities look and feel. The reasons people move around may still be the same and our four strategy pillars of quantity, quality, availability and accessibility remain intact but there are now huge opportunities to change the way we understand our urban spaces and the way movement shapes them and us.

Policy statements are traditionally long on lofty visions and bold statements but a new understanding of what makes walking and cycling easier and more appealing as part of active travel could have a profound impact on the culture of our cities. Giving more thought and more space to two feet and two wheels could be the catalyst for a low-key revolution.

 

Andy Fawkes and Chris MacFarlane are principal consultants with KKP

 

November 2021

 

Notes and references:

Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans: Technical Guidance for Local Authorities
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/908535/cycling-walking-infrastructure-technical-guidance-document.pdf

Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/904146/gear-change-a-bold-vision-for-cycling-and-walking.pdf

Cycle Infrastructure Design: Local Traffic Note 1/20
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/951074/cycle-infrastructure-design-ltn-1-20.pdf

The Bee Network
https://activetravel.tfgm.com/bee-network-vision/

The Propensity to Cycle Tool
https://www.pct.bike/

Speedway: a long history looking for a future

Tim Holdsworth considers the challenges facing a sport in transition and what it might mean for facility provision, management and planning.

 

How do you solve a problem like speedway? It is a sport with a long history and a small but dedicated fan base. It offers the speed and excitement of motor sport in the raw. Small, local venues put the spectators close to the action, immersed in the noise, smells and thrills of motorcycle racing stripped to the bare essentials.

However, for all the enthusiasm of its aficionados, speedway is undeniably a sport in decline. Participation and audience numbers have been dropping consistently for a decade or more. Its clubs – even British Speedway Premiership clubs – are struggling to survive. Many of the venues that host speedway events are in crisis and TV coverage has tailed off, taking with it a vital source of the sport’s revenue.

We are a long way from speedway’s heyday, when top riders were household names. If you were to find anyone able to name a top rider now, it is more likely that they would be able to recall a champion of the past, probably from the last century, rather than name the current world champion.

Small sports with limited participation numbers and niche audiences can, and do, survive in a modern sporting context but no one would deny that it is a huge challenge to make it work.

The precarious nature of speedway’s finances makes it vulnerable to competing interests, not least from developers with an eye on venues that seem ripe for alternative use. In recent decades significant numbers of speedway tracks have been lost, along with the teams that used to draw the crowds; 15 speedway teams have folded since 2005.

It is a similar story with other sports that use or share such track venues. Stock car racing and greyhound racing have also experienced decline, making the viability of the stadia that host them (individually or collectively) increasingly precarious. In recent years even the most ardent speedway fan could understand why increasing numbers of people might see speedway venues as something of an anachronism in the context of the modern sporting experience.

All this might suggest that when reviewing the viability of a speedway venue in the face of proposals for redevelopment, the planning authorities would be faced with the proverbial open-and-shut case. However, for any developers eyeing a speedway stadium as a prime target, the nature of the sport creates something of a conundrum.

Sport England’s national planning policy framework makes it clear that open space, sports and recreation buildings, facilities and land should not be built on unless it can be shown that: the existing facility is surplus to requirements; are to be replaced or improved; or that alternative sports provision is to be created.

The argument that a speedway track is surplus to requirements is made problematic by virtue of its rarity. If so many speedway tracks have been lost, its supporters can argue that those left are all the more important; with only a few remaining, how can any existing track be said to be surplus to requirements?

Replacing or improving facilities to make them more attractive to spectators and better suited to other uses is an option but one that comes with a hefty price tag. Who would be willing to invest the millions likely to be needed to create a modern sporting venue if the sports that it will host are struggling to find an audience and a business model to make them viable?

Alternative sports provision might seem to be a more attractive approach, particularly in the promotion of and engagement in sport and physical activity across the wider community, but again the investment required to create new sports venues is significant and not often found at the top of a developer’s priority list.

If developers were kept at bay and there were sufficient funds and support to create a modern speedway venue, could such a stadium be viable? The experience of the National Speedway Stadium in Manchester suggests not. In 2016 Manchester City Council invested £7m in the stadium, which includes a 3G pitch as part of the offer. However, the speedway club has reportedly struggled to meet its obligations as the venue’s key tenant. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, it seems speedway was not in a position to make the most of an updated facility.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a sport with a long and vibrant history is facing a very difficult future. As clubs continue to struggle to survive, audiences go on falling while the other sports that used to make speedway venues viable – most commonly stock car racing and greyhound racing – face similar hardships. On this evidence, speedway would seem to be a sport from the past.

But perhaps all is not lost; at least not quite, not yet. Other sports have shown that it is possible to create a future for a sport with a long history. Most evolve to meet different circumstances and expectations. Bigger sports than speedway are constantly addressing the need to find new markets and new audiences; squash, cricket and triathlon, to name just a few. Some manage to reverse their own decline by transforming their marketing and spectator experience; snooker and darts might be examples.

Small sports with limited participation numbers and niche audiences can, and do, survive in a modern sporting context but no one would deny that it is a huge challenge to make it work. Even before the pandemic, a great many sports and venues were considering their options in the face of an uncertain future. As a sport, speedway would seem to have more problems than most. It will need radical reinvention if it is to find some new household names to sit alongside those slipping out of the collective sporting memory.

 

 

Tim Holdsworth is a senior consultant with KKP. Contact him at tim.holdsworth@kkp.co.uk

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% of 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

NEWS RELEASE

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.
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