Shropshire Council has begun a consultation into what leisure and sports facilities it is going to fund across the county.
Ludlow looks okay. But this strategy is dire for SpArC at Bishop’s Castle and for Church Stretton.
The aim of a strategy should be improve the quality of life for Shropshire residents through increased participation and access to sport, leisure and physical activity. I don’t think this draft document will achieve that.
This is a car based policy. It is about driving to get fit.
In rural areas, the strategy says households must be within 30 minutes’ drive of facilities. It makes no allowance for winter weather or for the 16% of households in Shropshire that don’t own a car. It makes no mention of the extensive cuts planned to Shropshire’s bus network under the council’s bus strategy. Some of the data it used in the strategy are more than a decade out of date.
According to the draft sport and leisure facilities strategy, the main services will be concentrated in Shrewsbury, Oswestry and here in Ludlow. SpArC at Bishop’s Castle and the swimming pool at Church Stretton must find their own funding in if they are to survive. The debate over whether the main swimming pool in Shrewsbury should continue to be in the Quarry remains unresolved. There are also threats to facilities in Market Drayton and Whitchurch.
I am of course pleased that the facilities in Ludlow are not under threat.
I am not convinced that this strategy takes enough account of how difficult it is to travel around the south of the county.
Sport and leisure priorities must be aligned to and support the priorities for health and wellbeing. On my first reading, this strategy doesn’t achieve that.
. Page 39 of the strategy says that only 72.5% of the Shropshire population have access to private transport. I can’t square this number with the census data on household vehicle ownership. But if more than one quarter of us done have access to a car, efficient public transport should be a centre of the council’s policies including sports and leisure.
. The strategy uses 2004 estimates for the populations of towns where facilities are located. In 2004, Ludlow had 9,250 people. In 2011, we had 10,266 people. I don’t have an precisely comparable number for 2014, but we are above 11,000 residents now. Why on earth is Shropshire Council using data more than a decade out of date for policy making?