6. Recreation

Introduction

There is a wide range of recreation and leisure provision, including indoor leisure, organised sport, informal outdoor recreation, children’s play space, parks and other open spaces.  Recreation also helps to create a healthy society. The key issues consultation demonstrated the value the community places on the existing open spaces in the urban area.  A comprehensive assessment of all open space areas has been carried out in the Council’s Open Space Assessment 2003 (Technical Paper 4).

The Local Plan policies will tie in with the Council’s Sport and Recreation Plan, which seeks “to ensure the development of sport and related recreations as a whole within the Borough embodying the principle of development and equity”.

Policies will support the enhancement of the multi-use facilities at The Pingles and Bedworth Leisure Centres to meet the needs of the Borough.   The smaller neighbourhood centres will be improved where appropriate.  Large commercial leisure facilities, such as cinemas, bowling alleys, health clubs and golf courses, are provided by the private sector.  These uses can generate a high level of traffic movements and this Plan will consider where these types of uses should be permitted which should preferably be in Town Centres.

The Borough is fortunate in it’s existing stock of playing fields and sports pitches, and this Plan will have strong policies to protect them from development.  The Council’s Playing Pitch Strategy 2000 assesses the current level of demand; the existing provision for sports pitches and the need for additional facilities.  This Plan will seek to create and protect open spaces, whether they be formal, informal or play areas.  Policies will encourage recreational facilities, local parks and open spaces to be easily accessible by public transport, walking and cycling.  The Borough is fortunate in having a network of Green Tracks, which are pathways for walkers that link our neighbourhoods and encourage wildlife to flourish.  It may be possible to develop some of the Green Track Network for cycling as well. 

Policies and Explanation

Commercial Indoor Leisure

POLICY R1 - Commercial Indoor Leisure

Commercial indoor leisure facilities (such as leisure centres, health clubs, cinemas, bowling alleys and ice rinks) will not be permitted other than in locations which are accessible to the whole community.  These types of uses will be expected to locate in Town Centre locations.  No development will be permitted outside the Town Centres unless it can be demonstrated there are no available sites and it has been demonstrated that there is a need for additional facilities.  Sites adjacent to Town Centres should then be considered first before any out of town location. 

PPS6 Planning for Town Centres 2005 states that facilities which have a wide catchment area should be located so that they are well served by a choice of transport.  Facilities such as leisure centres and cinemas are major traffic generators and will therefore be directed to accessible locations.   In line with Government statements the need for additional leisure floorspace will need to be demonstrated. Major leisure uses are required to follow a sequential assessment of sites.  The first choice will be a Town Centre location followed by an edge-of-town location and finally, an out-of-centre location which is accessible by a choice of transport.  Developers will be required to provide a Green Travel Plan and possible contributions towards sustainable transport initiatives.

Recreational Priority Areas

POLICY R2 - Recreational Priority Areas

Recreational Priority Areas are identified for the following sites:

  1. The Pingles Leisure Centre, Avenue Road, Nuneaton
  2. Bedworth Leisure Centre, Coventry Road, Bedworth
  3. Jubilee Centre, Greenmoor Road, Nuneaton
  4. Nuneaton Rugby Club, off Eastborough Way, Nuneaton
  5. Bedworth Rugby Club, Smarts Road, Bedworth
  6. Harry Cleaver Sports Ground, Weddington Road, Nuneaton
  7. Griff and Coton Sports Club, Heath End Road, Nuneaton

Development will be permitted on these sites providing it relates to an open-air recreational facility which requires pitch provision.  Development may include spectator stands, changing accommodation, artificial surfaces, social club, car parking, cycleways, and floodlighting.  Indoor leisure facilities will not normally be permitted at these sites unless they are clearly ancillary to the main use of the site.

The above sites have been identified as Recreational Priority Areas to allow for the upgrading and enhancement of existing facilities.  It does not appear that additional sites will be required during the plan period. In order to survive, many sports clubs now require a commercial element such as a social bar or additional recreational facilities which are ancillary to the main use.  These facilities may have implications for nearby residential properties in terms of noise, disturbance and light impact.   Planning Applications for development may require environmental impact assessments or statements on measures to deal with traffic, visual, noise and other environmental impacts.

Development may also have an impact on highway issues and a transport assessment may be required.  This may identify mitigation measures which will need to be funded by the developer.   Development may have an impact on sites of ecological, geological or archaeological importance. Where such surveys identify areas or features of substantive nature conservation, geological or archaeological value, mitigation plans will need to be implemented including, where necessary, the exclusion of the valuable areas / features from the developable land.

Playing Fields

POLICY R3 - Playing Fields

Proposals which involve small scale buildings and works on existing playing fields and sports grounds not within the Green Belt will be permitted provided that the development is ancillary to the main use. 

Many playing fields in the Borough are currently under-used due to a lack of changing facilities.  Small buildings and works would include changing rooms, development such as car parking facilities and improved drainage to pitches.  Improvements to changing facilities and pitch quality would enable greater use of the facilities.  The Borough has a number of private sports clubs and grounds, such as Nuneaton Lawn Tennis Club, Ambleside and Bulkington Sports and Social Clubs.  Small scale development which would enhance recreational provision at these sites will normally be permitted, subject to impact on traffic and residential amenity.  Sport England provides advice on the provision of buildings to serve particular sports.  Development in the Green Belt is covered by policy Env1.

POLICY R4 - Playing Fields within the Green Belt

Development on or Change of use of playing fields, (including school playing fields and private playing fields) and other open spaces not within the Green Belt will not be permitted unless:

  1. Sports pitches and ancillary facilities can best be retained and enhanced through redevelopment of a small part of the site; or
  2. The proposal is part of a scheme to develop new and improved facilities of equivalent community benefit which can continue to serve players, especially juniors and women, from the immediate locality. An agreement will be required to ensure that the new sports pitches and facilities will be provided and be in readiness for use before any redevelopment of the existing pitches; or
  3. The site is identified in the Open Space Assessment 2003 Technical Paper 4 as having little open space value.

At the time of plan preparation, PPG 17 “Sport and Recreation” (1991) advised Councils to use the NPFA’s “Six Acre Standard” to determine how much open space for sport, play and recreation is provided.  This recommends a minimum standard for outdoor playing space of 2.43 hectares (six acres) per 1,000 population.  This is further subdivided between outdoor sport (pitches) 1.6 – 1.8 hectares and children’s play space, playgrounds and casual games areas of 0.6 – 0.8 hectares.  Using these standards the Council can identify areas of the Borough, which are deficient in outdoor playing space and protect existing open space provision.  It is accepted that PPG17 has since been revised and the guidance no longer refers to the NPFA standard.  New guidance states that open space standards are best set locally. Upon review of the Plan, the Council will consider applying a local standard having regard to locally expressed needs, shortfall and the supply and availability of open spaces at that time.

The Open Space Assessment (Technical Paper 4) identifies a measure of value for each open area based upon its contribution at Local and Borough wide level.  Open space with a high value for formal and informal recreation, play space or environment use will normally be protected from development.  Through the application of the above criteria, this policy seeks to protect playing fields and other open space, not within the Green Belt, irrespective of their size.

For playing fields, Sport England acknowledge that it is far more difficult to develop new facilities than to continue to use existing pitches, because of the scarcity and high cost of urban land.  Once developed it is unlikely that further playing fields and other open spaces can be provided.  However, the disposal of part or all of a site can provide the means of financing improved facilities in the locality to the benefit of the community.  The loss of playing fields may adversely affect the character of an area and residential amenity area.  Proposals will therefore be judged strictly in accordance with the above criteria.  Development in the Green Belt is covered by policy Env1.

Floodlighting

POLICY R5 - Floodlighting

Floodlights will be permitted within Recreation Priority Areas, and other sports facilities not within the Green Belt, providing they do not cause unacceptable environmental impacts, nuisance or visual intrusion.  In some cases the hours of use of the floodlights may be restricted by planning condition. 

Floodlighting is now an integral part of many sports facilities, particularly hard-surfaced areas and golf driving ranges, as it allows for more effective use of the facilities.

Recreation Priority Areas are designated to allow more intensive use and are therefore normally an appropriate area for floodlighting.  However, floodlights can cause light pollution and as they allow use of facilities for longer and more unsociable hours may also result in disturbance to nearby residents.  Their impact upon neighbouring residents will therefore need careful consideration.  Residential amenity can be protected through sensitive siting and design of the floodlights and restricting hours of use.  Floodlighting can cause significant impacts to wildlife, especially nocturnal invertebrates and mammals.  Assessment of impact will be required.  Floodlights in the Green Belt is covered by policy Env1.

Golf Course and Driving Ranges

POLICY R6 - Golf Course and Driving Ranges

New golf courses and facilities will be permitted outside the Green Belt if:

  1. It can be demonstrated that there is a proven need for further facilities to serve the Borough.
  2. The size, siting, and design of buildings and other structures are appropriate to the countryside in which the facility is sited.
  3. There is no adverse impact on land drainage.
  4. There is a satisfactory means of access to the site and car parking and servicing are in accordance with the Council’s adopted Standards.
  5. There would be no adverse impact on the free flow of traffic and highway safety on adjoining public highways.
  6. The safety of users of any existing public rights of way which adjoin or cross the site are protected.
  7. The proposals do not have an adverse effect upon the character of historic landscapes including parks and gardens, and important landscape features.  If additional landscaping is to be required it will be to a high standard.
  8. External illumination does not cause visual intrusion or light pollution.
  9. There would be no significant impact on the ecology or geology of nature conservation sites. 

The Borough currently has three private golf facilities: Nuneaton Golf Course off Golf Drive; Plough Hill Golf Centre off Plough Hill Road; and Hawkesbury Golf Centre off Blackhorse Road.  There are also a number of golf courses in adjoining authorities whose catchment areas include the Borough.  There does not appear to be a demand for any new golf courses.   Any proposal will be judged against the above criteria. 

New golf courses can be appropriate in the countryside.   However, in the Green Belt proposals will be judged against policy Env1.  Careful consideration will be given to aspects such as size, siting and design of associated facilities, earth mounding and landscaping.   Where proposals affect particularly sensitive habitats, flora and fauna, geology, archaeology or landscapes, the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement may be required.

A golf driving range may be permitted either as part of a golf course or on its own but will need to meet the above criteria.  Ranges may be appropriate uses within Recreational Priority Areas.

POLICY R7 - Plough Hill Road Golf Centre

Land at Plough Hill Road, Galley Common is allocated for golfing purposes.  The Council will permit the expansion of facilities at the golf course provided there is no adverse impact on the ecology or geology of important nature conservation sites. 

Since being allocated in the previous Local Plan for golfing purposes the land has been developed as the Plough Hill Golf Centre.  The Council would allow the Centre to expand onto adjoining land to become a more viable and useful facility. 

Ancillary development such as a club, bar or restaurant could facilitate the continued use of the land for golfing purposes.

Green Track Network

POLICY R8 - Green Track Network

The Council will seek opportunities for the further development of Green Track routes.  Development proposals will be expected to contribute to the improvement and creation of links in the Green Track network.  The Council will not permit development which would prejudice public access onto and through the Green Track network, unless specific arrangements have been made for suitable alternative linkages.  These will be covered in Section 106 obligations. 

There are eight guided walks covering the Green Tracks at Caldecote, Chilvers Coton, Exhall, Galley Common, Keresley, Marston & Weston, Weddington and Whittleford Park.  This strategic network of recreational paths provide important linkages from the built-up areas of the Borough to open spaces, woodland, rivers, water areas and the wider countryside.  The Green Track network will be protected, promoted and encouraged for its importance in providing amenity; access to open countryside; and encouraging a healthier lifestyle.  These green corridors are important for wildlife to flourish and to give environmental education opportunities within easy reach of local residents and schools.  The existing Green Tracks are shown on the Proposals Map.  Any extensions or new routes will be devised in consultation with the agreement of landowners and occupiers, and will be covered by a Supplementary Planning Document.

Water Bodies

POLICY R9 - Water Bodies

The Council will promote the recreational use of the Borough’s rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and other water bodies, if the following criteria can be met:

  1. The use will not be detrimental to the water quality, and the ecological, geological or archaeological value of the area.
  2. It will not cause undue disturbance to adjoining residents.
  3. Adequate measures are taken to ensure security and safety on and around the water body.
  4. Adequate access and car parking arrangements are provided.
  5. The use is not inappropriate within the Green Belt (see Policy Env1).
  6. Measures are taken to protect any existing water vole colonies, and where they are not currently present to ensure that the water bodies are suitable for colonisation by water voles. 

Existing water bodies can be developed for public use and enjoyment.  However, these resources can be of considerable ecological value.  In particular, the area supports one of the few remaining substantial populations of water voles in the Upper Trent catchment, and as well as protecting existing colonies the opportunity exists to encourage their further colonisation of the area.  There is a need to balance recreational and ecological needs.  Uses can range from informal leisure pursuits to organised sporting activities.  Water sports can include angling, canoeing, rowing, sailing, windsurfing, and model boating, as well as motorised activities such as jet skiing, water skiing and power boat racing.  The motorised activities are likely to cause more environmental damage and will not normally be permitted.  Although water resources should be used for recreational pursuits, there are safety issues which need to be addressed.

Bermuda Community Park

POLICY R10 - Bermuda Community Park

5.97 hectares of land at Paradise Farm, Bermuda Road are allocated as informal open space. 

The eastern portion of Paradise Farm is currently being developed. However another 5.97 hectares of the site remains unused.

Paradise Farm is a former landfill site and is unsuitable for housing.  A proposal for a sports stadium was refused.  The Council would wish to see the site laid out as a Community Park for informal public open space use.   This can be done as part of a wider opportunity to utilise other open spaces in the locality such as the Bermuda Industrial Estate Balancing Lakes and former Blue Lagoon.

Allotments

POLICY R11 - Allotments

Existing allotment provision will be protected.  Proposals to redevelop allotments for other uses will not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that:

  1. Their loss will not result in an unmet demand for allotments within a reasonable walking distance; or
  2. Adequate replacement allotments are proposed.
  3. Landscaping the vacant land is not feasible.

The Council has a statutory duty to provide allotment gardens for those who wish to use them.  There has been a decline in usage, but the Council is still keen to promote allotments as a healthy activity.  Allotments also provide important green spaces within the urban area.  Often there are mature hedgerows which have an important wildlife and nature conservation value.  Where there are under utilised plots the Council would prefer to see them landscaped, with a view to returning them to cultivation if the demand increases in the future. 

If it can be demonstrated that there is no unmet demand all aspects of the open space and national conservation value of the site will be assessed before development is permitted.  Proposals for development should ensure, by improvement of an undeveloped portion of the site or compensatory provision nearby, that there will be an enhancement of open space in the immediate area.  Where replacement allotments are proposed these should provide convenient access to allotment holders, satisfactory provision of water, comparable soil fertility and equivalent security both of site and tenure.

Provision for horses

POLICY R12 - Provision for Horses

Proposals for equestrian uses outside the Green Belt will be permitted if the following criteria are met:

  1. There is a satisfactory means of access to the site and car parking and servicing are in accordance with the Council’s adopted Standards.
  2. There would be no adverse impact on the free flow of traffic and highway safety on adjoining public highway.
  3. The safety of users of any existing public rights of way which adjoin or cross the site are protected.
  4. There will be no adverse impact on the character or appearance of the countryside.
  5. Landscaping and screening, where appropriate, is provided to reduce visual intrusion and make a positive contribution to the landscape.
  6. The use will not be detrimental to the ecological, geological or archaeological value of the area.
  7. There is sufficient land for the grazing of horses in line with RSPCA guidelines. 

PPS7 Sustainable Development in Rural Areas advises that high standards of design, construction and maintenance of buildings are necessary to ensure that equestrian activities do not have an adverse affect on the countryside and that horses are well housed and cared for.

Development in the Green Belt is covered by policy Env1.

The British Horse Society guidelines (Guidelines for the Keeping of Horses: Stable Sizes, Pasture Acreages and Fencing) advise that there should be a minimum of 0.4 hectares (1 acre) for the grazing of each horse. 

Protection of Open Space

POLICY R13 - Protection of Open Spaces

A comprehensive assessment of all open space areas within the Borough has been undertaken.  Development on open space identified in the assessment as being of high value will not be permitted. 

Technical Paper 4 - Open Space Assessment identifies open space areas of high value which need protection.  Open space value was based on their contribution to local, ward and borough provision.  This policy does not imply a presumption in favour of development of open space sites of relatively low value. Proposals to develop such sites will be considered on their merits in the context of other relevant development plan policies.  The Open Space Assessment considered sites of 0.4 hectares and over; a threshold that corresponded with other technical work undertaken as part of the local plan preparation – namely the Urban Capacity Study.  More recent guidance, “Assessing Needs and Opportunities” was issued in September 2002 to accompany the revised PPG17.  It suggests a threshold of 0.2 hectares for assessment work.  Thus, proposals to develop sites falling between that suggested 0.2 hectare and the threshold adopted in the Borough’s Open Space Assessment will be considered against the contribution of that open space to the local area, ward and where appropriate, the Borough.  The review of the Plan will include a revised Open Space Assessment, which will have due regard to PPG17 and any accompanying guidance at that time.

Noise Generating Sports

POLICY R14 - Noise Generating Sports

Proposals for noise generating sports will not be permitted unless the following criteria are met:

  1. There will be no demonstrable harm to local amenities and adjacent land uses.
  2. There will be no detrimental impact on the ecology of nature conservation sites.
  3. The site is adjacent to an existing noise generator such as a main road, or is well screened by banking and trees.
  4. A satisfactory means of access and satisfactory car parking can be provided in accordance with the Council’s approved standards.
  5. The proposal will not result in an adverse impact on the free flow or safety of traffic on adjacent public highways.
  6. The use is not inappropriate within the Green Belt (see policy Env1). 

A number of sports, including shooting, motorsports, powered air sports, water skiing and the use of personal water craft can generate levels of noise which may be intrusive and disturbing to people and wildlife.  The Council will seek to ensure these type of uses are provided in appropriate locations where their environmental impact and conflicts with other users can be minimised.  Locations adjacent to existing noise generators can reduce the noise impact of the use. 

Advice on noise issues is contained in PPG 24 “Planning and Noise”.

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