Playing Pitch Strategy: Birmingham & Solihull

This joint authority commission is the largest PPS (by population) commissioned in the UK to date. It covered supply and demand analysis for 300-plus sites (including 305 football pitches in Birmingham and 203 in Solihull), all assessed by our field research staff. A total of 746 teams responded to consultation requests across the two authorities, a 75%-plus response rate. Consultation included face-to-face meetings with larger community football clubs from across both local authority areas as well as the professional clubs and their respective foundations.

The FA, Birmingham County FA, Sport England and other pitch sport national governing bodies (NGB) were all closely involved in the process, which led to the pinpointing of key shortfalls in grass pitch provision. This informed specific recommendations with regard to alleviation via improving quality, reducing overplay and gaining access to provision currently unavailable for community use.

Current and future deficits in the number of full-sized 3G pitches were verified across both authorities. Potential sites for development to tackle this were identified, which informed proposals already being developed and the FA local football facility plan (LFFP) for each authority, also prepared by KKP.

Other key issues include the quality of ancillary provision and security of tenure (many clubs face issues with expiring leases or losing sites allocated for development). Levels of imported and exported demand were informed by strategies already completed by KKP for Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell plus Coventry.

In September 2019 Solihull Council appointed KKP to undertake a mitigation strategy following the allocation of numerous playing pitch sites for development in its Draft Local Plan Review. To inform this, the Council’s playing pitch strategy (PPS) was updated to enable strategic evaluation based on contemporary supply and demand information.

Given that no allocated pitch sites were surplus to requirement, the mitigation strategy focused upon where and how provision could be replaced, at minimum, on a like-for-like basis. In so doing we explored how best to enable this, identifying what each relocation should provide (ie, hectarage, pitches and supporting infrastructure), accounting for the needs of the affected clubs. We then factored in increased demand emanating from planned housing growth in the authority, using the Pitch Demand Calculator to guide this.

To achieve required mitigation requirements, the strategy recommends hub site options, whereby allocations in defined areas are grouped and replaced via single site-based solutions. A golf course was one potential option, which led to KKP conducting a separate needs assessment to determine whether it (in its current form) is surplus to requirements. The conclusion, as signed off by England Golf, was that it could not be lost in its entirety but could reduce from 18 to 9 holes, freeing up space for playing pitches.

The mitigation strategy was signed off in October 2020 and will be used as a supporting document within the Local Plan process.

Since 2014 our PPS portfolio covers more than one third of England’s population, including most core cities and key urban conurbations. In addition to the West Midlands, it encompasses Tyne & Wear, the five West Yorkshire authorities, Greater Nottingham, Merseyside and nine of the ten Greater Manchester authorities plus Glasgow, Cardiff and a cross section of London boroughs.

Contact: claire.fallon@kkp.co.uk