The physical activity and sport sector must recognise the importance of listening to communities and local voices to understand their needs in order to improve both public health and activity levels.
That was the key message from Sporting Assets’ Nicky Roche CBE last week when she spoke at the latest London Sport Connect Series event which focused on active design principles.
Consultation will also form a key pillar of the latest London Sport Consultancy work alongside Sporting Assets, commissioned by Hillingdon Council, which aims to support evidence-based decisions on the development of two of the borough’s major cycling facilities.
Roche said: “Partnering with London Sport, we can combine our skill sets of local insight and facility knowledge to understand the future supply and demand of the local area and how we can make these two parks work well for the community.”
“One is a nationally iconic park, and people travel there from all over the country, it’s the kind of park people want to be involved with, but there are quite a lot of issues to be dealt with, people, sadly, are homeless there, and parking is an issue.
Roche though will take inspiration from a former Sporting Assets project in Leeds which transformed an undesirable golf course which attracted anti-social behaviour into a charity-led bike park which has become a key community asset.
“I was quite struck by the local consultation and how important it is asking people what it is they want,” she added.
“It has amazing facilities, and that came out of asking the local community. It’s become a community asset by bringing partners together.”
The Director of Strategy for Sporting Assets also emphasised the wider benefits that the social enterprise can have when working with local facilities to develop a sustainable plan.
“We work with clubs and communities around the country, and we encourage them to think not just about providing sport but also what the social impact will be; health, education, employment opportunities,” she explained.
“To be a successful sports club, you’re probably going to need volunteers as coaches or people marshalling. That’s a great set of skills that you can take to the workplace either directly in sport or the wider jobs market.”
The second London Sport Connect Series event, Housing, Health, Happiness? Laying the Foundations for London’s Physically Active Future, looked at the urban environment.
It highlighted the importance of utilising existing community assets and the ongoing benefit of ensuring that physical activity and health is at the heart of new developments in the future.