Policy 16 - Leisure, Recreation, Community and Open Space Facilities

  1. Leisure, recreation, community and open space facilities provide significant benefits to both the mental wellbeing and physical health of communities in Oxfordshire, as well as making an important contribution to the vitality of our city, town and local centres. Open spaces, as well as grassroot sport and recreation facilities, can also make a positive contribution to biodiversity and the local environment. In reflection of this, it is important that the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 continues to support these facilities.

  1. Many leisure, recreation, community and open space facilities in the county mainly serve local communities. However, there are some facilities that have catchments beyond city, district and county boundaries.

Policy Options

  1. The preferred policy option is to leave local plans to set policies for local (non-strategic) leisure, recreation, community and open space facilities, with the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 setting a policy for strategic facilities that serve communities both in the county and further afield.

Preferred Policy Proposal

Policy 16 – Leisure, Recreation, Community and Open Space Facilities 

Development proposals for high quality strategic leisure, recreation and open space facilities in Oxfordshire will be encouraged that serve more than one District, or county-wide, sub-regional, regional or national purpose, including (but not limited to):

Strategic indoor sports and recreational facilities, such as leisure centres, aquatic centres, and indoor pitches, courts and stadiums.

Strategic outdoor sports facilities and open space, such as pitches, courts, golf courses, as well as country parks and associated visitor facilities.

A strategic facility is a high-quality facility that will serve a county-wide, sub-regional, regional, or national purpose, for example (but not limited to) county sports grounds, stadiums, new golf courses, and country parks. It could also include activities associated with the stately homes of Oxfordshire. Due to the extent and variety of facilities that can fall under this definition, whether the facility is ultimately considered strategic will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The Oxfordshire Plan would expect all new strategic leisure, recreation and open space facilities development to meet the following criteria: 

They must be located within the built-up areas of the city, towns and villages.

In the villages, development must be proportionally scaled and in keeping with the character of the settlement.

Development outside of these areas will only be supported in exceptional circumstances, for example where it is evidenced that it cannot reasonably be located in the city, or a town or village in the county, such as water-based facilities or parkland uses.

They must be located in accessible locations, with excellent public transport and link to networks for walking and cycling and the public rights of way network.

Use of sustainable travel is encouraged and a sustainable travel plan will be required that sets out the details of the bus and rail connectivity to be secured.

They must be designed with renewable energy provision incorporated to help reduce use of carbon.They must have minimal traffic, environmental, visual and landscape impact.Provision for the long-term maintenance and management of the facilities will be sought and must be agreed as part of a planning application.

School sports halls and outdoor playing fields should be made available to the local community. New facilities of this type would be required to enter into community use agreements.

Sports lighting would operate within agreed hours where there is a need unless the lighting gives rise to demonstrable harm to biodiversity.

Community facilities would be a matter for individual local plans except where community facilities are intended to meet the needs of a wider district or neighbouring district(s) in which case they should be located within or adjoining rural service centres to maximise accessibility.

Alternative Policy Option 16-01

  1. As an alternative, the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 could include a policy that seeks to protect the existing indoor and outdoor sports facilities and open spaces within the County. Those within built-up areas are most likely to be at threat from other forms of development. A policy which acknowledges the importance of retaining existing open spaces within built-up areas and seeks to protect them would do more to secure the future of these types of facilities within the built-up areas. Access to any new private facilities would also be encouraged.

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