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Labour wants end to 'sporting apartheid' in Bishop's Stortford

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Bishop's Stortford Community Football Club under-18 girls. (8602145)
Bishop's Stortford Community Football Club under-18 girls. (8602145)

Sport is vital to our health and well-being. Accessible, safe and attractive public open spaces and facilities for sport and recreation underpin everyone's quality of life.

But Stortford's new residential developments and a population forecast to grow to around 50,000 by 2030 are putting increasing pressure on sport facilities within East Herts.

What's the scale of the issue? In preparation of the 2017 East Herts District plan a survey was conducted of all sporting teams in the area (https://www.eastherts.gov.uk/evidencebase) which revealed that:

- respondents to the football clubs' survey had a combined waiting list equivalent to 80 teams;

- 71% of respondents cited a shortage of pitches as the main impediment to fielding more teams;

- 93% of respondents identified a lack of available training facilities. Several teams trained on pitches outside the district as a result.

Bishop's Stortford Community FC are quoted in this report as saying: "We have children who wish to play football who cannot be accommodated due to the lack of playing facilities...[which] is severely hampering our ability to meet provision in the town. With the impending growth of Bishop's Stortford North, the club are not only concerned about the lack of football provision, but the knock-on effects of children's health, social skills and community cohesion'.

Labour's vision for sport in Stortford is that developers of all new large residential projects will be required to provide open spaces, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities as well as improvements to the town's infrastructure.

The council already has a legal responsibility to ensure "sufficient" open space, sports and leisure facilities are provided, are appropriately located, of high quality, well maintained and managed to meet the needs of the community. But is this happening?

The plans for Stortford South's 750 houses to be built on recently designated Green Belt land include no provision whatsoever for sports facilities for public use.

East Herts Council receives Section 106 money (a legally binding agreement which is applied to major planning applications) from developers to support the provision of services and infrastructure including sport and recreational facilities.

East Herts has not used its S106 money wisely – it recently had to appoint an officer to investigate £583,654 of unspent Section 106 money which might otherwise be lost. A further £1,710,889 is waiting to be spent by Herts County Council.

If you are well-off and living in Bishop's Stortford there are many sporting facilities to choose from – private gyms, swimming pools, golf and tennis clubs, etc. But if you can't afford the monthly membership fees (which can easily be £40 or £50 a month), you are left with very limited choices.

This sporting apartheid has a direct impact on the health and well-being of poorer people. A Labour council will ensure that sports facilities are provided for us all, not just the few. Sites like Grange Paddocks will be run on a not-for-profit basis and discounted rates introduced for those on Universal Credit or with reduced income.

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