Local leisure provision can't just be the same centres but smaller
Posted: Wed, 19 Apr 2023 09:30
To celebrate the successful securing of planning permission of Warsop Health Hub one of the country's first Sport England Leisure Local concept schemes, project managers Abacus shared a photo - but all I could see was the car park.
I'm fully behind the Leisure Local concept, providing affordable facilities in a local community. In this case delivering a swimming pool, splash pad, multi-purpose hall, fitness suite and new MUGA pitch together with community space and café to the 12,000 population town on the outskirts of Mansfield and Sherwood Forest,
Enabling sport and movement on people's doorstep is key, the other day I even dug out some old research I did back in 2005 with Active Lincolnshire. That work was a response to issues rural municipalities have in addressing the demands of Sport England's Built Facilitiy Strategies and recommended investment in village halls, recognising the important role they have to play, as super local leisure facilities.
But how about we at least put the car park around the back? Let us leave aside for the moment the issues of building in car dependency into 'local' leisure rather than ensuring these facilities are connected to their conurbations by safe, accessible foot, cycle and public transport facilities. Instead think of how that space might be better used to attract the inactive to play.
The Danes, and their fantastic innovative sports facilities body LOA Fonden are great at this. The example I used on the top of this page isn't one I hunted for, it was the first I found when typed sports hall into their resource bank. Its sits in the town of Ikast, population app.14,000, similar to Warsop's 12,000.
The Danes, and their fantastic innovative sports facilities body LOA Fonden are great at this. When I typed 'sports hall' into their excellent resource bank, the first page to pop up was the site as Ikast, population approx. 14,000 — a good size comparison for Warsop.
Look at the images in the links below. Yes, there's a sizeable car park, but that's not what you see from the road, or on your approach from town. What you see is accessible, active spaces, you see an 'invitation to play'. You'll also see picnic benches, an invitation to sit and watch. The centre has footpaths approaching it on all sides and none require you to cross the car park to reach the door.
Time and time again in Denmark, you'll see sports halls, no matter their size, surrounded by open, active public space -- where people can engage for free. They call it legitimate peripheral participation and have applied it to their sports halls, inside and out.
'Legitimate peripheral participation' is an academic theory that discusses how newcomers to an activity or community become members of that community initially by participating in simple and low-risk tasks. LOA – a Danish foundation supporting innovation in facilities for sport and recreation – has translated this into creating space for socialising on the sidelines, meeting and waiting for friends, watching practice or a game, not opening the sports hall doors, or stepping through the gap in the fence and being thrown straight on to the court.
You can read more about legitimate peripheral participation on The Active Urbanist , and if you'd like help applying some of these concepts and others found on the continent and across the world to the U.K. or elsewhere you can reach Matt Roebuck, The Active Urbanist at email@example.com