Ashwell Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 16 Submission

Ended on the 15 April 2021
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9 Sport, leisure and recreation

Sports facilities

9.1 Neighbourhoods that benefit from sport and recreation facilities build stronger, healthier, happier and safer communities. It is important that younger residents are encouraged to play sport. It is equally important that older people continue to participate in sport and other recreational activities. In order to fully address the needs of this age group, in addition to forming part of the strategic plan for sports facilities in the parish, there is a need to promote other non-competitive forms of exercise such as walking groups, pilates, yoga, horse riding, leisure cycling, bowls and an outdoor gym.

9.2 With an ever-increasing number of Ashwell residents engaging in sport, it is apparent from the 2016 general survey, and from local engagement, that improved facilities are required in the village. Current facilities within the parish are described below.

The Recreation Ground

9.3 The Recreation Ground is used by many clubs especially the cricket club with its senior and junior sections (a membership of 135 in 2018), the Ashwell Academicals (Accies) football club and the senior football team. Other activities on the recreation ground include Mums Fit, Village Sports day, Beavers, Scouts, Brownies and Cubs. The children's playground is also well used and incorporates a small skateboard facility.

Figure 9.1 The Recreation Ground in summer 1991: a view that is unchanged in 2020, apart from the lack of cricket due to covid19 restrictions.

Figure 9.2 The Recreation Ground in winter

9.4 The small size of the Recreation Ground creates problems for many of the teams, with pitches that are both small and overlapping. It is constrained by busy roads and the playground for small children is adjacent to the cricket pitch, which creates a potential conflict during some sports events. However, its location and green space within the main body of the village is appreciated. It should be preserved and supplemented by additional facilities elsewhere in the wider parish area. Situated at one end of the recreation ground is a wooden pavilion built originally for the cricket club. This facility is now not fit for the range of clubs which use it and will need replacing. At each end of the wooden pavilion there are brick toilets that are open to the public all year round. These are out of date and are unsuitable for those with mobility issues. A Section 106 application has been made in September 2019 in relation to a Planning Application to provide funding towards the replacement of this pavilion.

Small Gains Lane

9.5 This area is a complex of privately owned land with tennis courts and a cycling facility that local clubs use and Parish Council owned football pitches and allotments. The pitches are used by the junior football teams and the cricket club makes use of an all-weather square. Due to lack of space the football pitch is undersized by several metres and there is no capacity for an under-15 pitch or for the regulation run-off area.

Figure 9.3 Football pitch at Small Gains Lane

9.6 The cycling club had 280 members in 2018, 75 of whom were children. In the summer the track is used twice a week for formal sessions. There are also a few informal training rides and usually two or three open events. In the winter there is less usage, usually once a week, with again two or three open mountain bike type events on a specially created terrain track around the perimeter of the field. There are two grass tracks one inside the other. The outer track has a periphery of 333m and the periphery of the inner track is about 250m.

9.7 In 2018 the tennis club had 250 members. The courts can be booked and there are club events, with training sessions both for adults and children. It is thought that the courts are used around 30 hours a week between April and October and half as much during the rest of the year.

9.8 There are 20 allotments at Small Gains, managed by the Parish Council. There is a water tank supplying the allotments so they do not suffer from drought. They are well used for growing vegetables and also providing social interaction between gardeners.

9.9 There are also allotments between Ashwell Street and Back Street, owned and managed by the Ancient Order of Foresters. These are also very popular despite the lack of mains water.

Future needs

9.10 The 2016 general survey identified that users of Small Gains expressed a need for better changing facilities and that the tennis and cycling clubs required toilet facilities. Many villagers would like to establish other clubs such as rugby and badminton, but the current facilities are not suitable. The cost of a pavilion at Small Gains with storage, home and away changing rooms, communal space, kitchen and servery is estimated to be in the range of £75,000-£100,000. No plans for a pavilion at Small Gains have been prepared to date.

9.11 The most pressing requirement is for a football pitch suitable for the U13/U14 age group. The under-13s are currently playing outside Ashwell, which clearly is not satisfactory for an Ashwell team. Although the Recreation Ground is not ideal for adult football and cricket, due to its small size, health and safety issues and conflicts with other users, users like the location. There is a clear need for a larger ground, but preference would be for an extension to the current Ground if land became available.

Policy ASH16 Provision of leisure and recreation facilities


9.12 The ANP will favour planning proposals that add to or enhance leisure facilities for Ashwell residents. The Parish's share of statutory contributions from developers will be used to enhance facilities.

Full policy


  1.  In order to provide for the increased need for leisure provision to support the growing population of Ashwell, development proposals which deliver the following will be supported:
    1.  new play areas and sports facilities or improvements to existing ones, which conform to Sport England design guidance[28]; or
    2.  the extension of the existing Recreation Ground or providing additional recreation space elsewhere, where:
      1.  the proposal would not have significant harmful impacts on the amenities of surrounding residents and the local environment; and
      2.  the proposal would not have significant adverse impacts upon the local road network.
  2.  The delivery of new facilities or improvements to existing facilities, including the provision of accessible toilets, changing rooms and communal space - will be secured through Section 106 contributions or Community Infrastructure Levy funding, once adopted by North Hertfordshire District Council.

Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 3, 4; Saved Plan 1996: 39; Emerging Local Plan: SP10; NPPF (2019): 91, 92, 96,97

Public houses

9.13 Opportunities for social interaction, including the combatting of isolation among older members of the community, are important. The three public houses in Ashwell (Bushel and Strike, Rose and Crown, and Three Tuns) are not only valued local businesses but they also act as community assets. They have social or cultural value for particular groups in the community and provide employment opportunities.

9.14 It is important that the community continues to be served by public houses or similar licensed premises but there is a concern locally about the possible change of their use, particularly to private dwellings.

9.15 Section 15 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 directs the removal of permitted development rights for the change of use of public houses to other types of use. This means that a planning application will be required in all cases where an owner wishes to change an existing public house to another use.

9.16 This policy seeks to increase the viability of all public houses within Ashwell by encouraging them to improve and expand suitable community facilities.

Policy ASH17 Protection of public houses


9.17 Planning applications to change the use of public houses will only be supported if they can no longer remain viable. Proposals to expand their use will be supported if it is to provide a similar community resource (e.g. restaurant).

Full policy


  1.  Development proposals to change the use of public houses (Class sui generis) will only be supported if such a use is demonstrably unviable. In order to demonstrate this, evidence will be required to show that the existing public house has been actively marketed as for use as such for a period of not less than 12 months at a reasonable market value for drinking establishment floorspace, that are comparable to the market values for drinking establishment floorspace in that general locality.
  2.  Proposals for the expansion of existing public houses in the neighbourhood area to develop appropriate community-based activities, such as a restaurant will be supported, subject to complying with other policies within the plan and provided the scale, design and materials are in keeping with the local character and reinforce the local distinctiveness of the surroundings.

Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 2, 5; Saved Plan 1996: 39; Emerging Local Plan: SP4, SP10; NPPF (2019): 91, 92

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