Formally Marked Playing Fields And Indoor Sports Facilities



11.3.1  Provision of sports facilities in Saffron Walden has declined over recent years. Walden (Friends) School was a private school with large playing fields located in the centre of the town. The school went into administration in 2017 and the site was sold to developers. At the time of writing, the site is not developed; nonetheless the gates remain closed to sports groups which now do not have the benefit of the space. The swimming pool was drained and may now be permanently damaged. The SWNP opposes the loss of these playing fields and notes that they are protected by the NPPF, as well as the Local Plan and the eLP:

NPPF Paragraph 97. “Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless: a) an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or b) the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or c) the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the benefits of which clearly outweigh the loss of the current or former use.”

11.3.2  The land next to Ridgeons to the east of the town was developed into 167 dwellings and commercial buildings (planning application: UTT/16/2701). It had been the location of a youth U11/U12 (9v9) football pitch. The development caused the loss of this pitch and provided in its place a 5v5 pitch. Sport England objected to the planning application. The 5v5 pitch which was provided in its place is inadequate for use for football because it is under the correct size (does not have runoff space) and is perched on the plateau at the top of a steep hill on all sides, with an approximate drop of 2 storeys. The small space provides a very good view over the town and is popular with dog walkers but cannot be described as an adequate 5v5 football pitch because of the unsuitable location and design.

11.3.3  At the same time, no sports facilities have been provided by other recent developments in Saffron Walden, apart from the Persimmon Homes development.

11.3.4  The Open Space Assessment Report 2019 catalogues the outdoor sports facilities space in Saffron Walden as covering 3.48ha, and these are catalogued in Appendix 5 – Green Spaces Audit.

11.3.5  The SWNP has catalogued a further 11.34ha of playing fields and these are catalogued in Appendix 6.

11.3.6  The UDC May 2019 Playing Pitch Strategy and Action Plan confirms SWNP research on the state of provision of outdoor sports facilities in Saffron Walden. It states that there is:

  • A shortfall of grass football pitches of varying sizes;
  • A shortfall of 2 full size floodlit 3G football pitches;
  • A shortfall of provision for cricket;
  • Insecurity of tenure for Saffron Walden rugby club which is based outside of SW, and has no space within the town, and notwithstanding this, an overall shortfall of provision for rugby; and
  • A shortfall in tennis courts.

11.3.7  The December 2018 UDC Sports Facilities and Recreation Strategy – Indoor Needs Assessment confirms SWNP research on the state of provision of indoor sports facilities in Saffron Walden. It notes that throughout Uttlesford “Unmet demand for sports halls in Uttlesford roughly equates to 6.4% of the total demand” (page 47). It goes on to note that “Lord Butler Leisure Centre [is] operating at 97% capacity. This means that [it is] operating at uncomfortable levels and [is] probably contributing to the over-stretched capacity levels.”

11.3.8  The report goes on to note that the majority of sports halls are located on education sites and are unavailable during the day, and that a significant proportion of time is given over to outdoor sports in sports halls which reduces the availability for specific indoor sports (page 56). It concludes that increasing outdoor sports provision would improve availability for indoor sports.

11.3.9  There is a project currently in hand to convert a football pitch at County High School into a 3G football pitch which will fulfil half of those requirements as identified by the Playing Pitch Strategy and Action Plan.

11.3.10  Swimming facilities are assessed by the Indoor Strategy as being broadly sufficient across Uttlesford. However, this finding is inconsistent with the fact that the Saffron Walden Swimming Club (Saffron Seals) is at capacity and has to run a waiting list for new members, since the closure of the Walden School pool. The Indoor Strategy further notes that “it may be more convenient for residents in the western part of the authority to use neighbouring authority pools as they may be viewed as more accessible” (page 65).


11.3.11  In order to meet demand, identified by their own waiting lists and confirmed by the UDC Sports Strategies, the Saffron Walden sports groups have identified the need for a multi-sports campus, which would achieve economies of scale by hosting several different sports across one site, as well as solving important shortages in capacity by providing modern sports facilities.

11.3.12  According to research carried out by Sport England [1] one in five people in England have a long-standing limiting disability or illness. It notes that “Disabled people say they are nearly twice as likely to be physically inactive (43%), compared with non-disabled people (21%). This inequality increases sharply as the number of impairments a person has increases, with 51% of people with three or more impairments inactive. If these population disparities are not addressed, the inequalities that already exist for disabled people will increase.” [2] Sport England strategy [3] is to encourage facilities that take a proactive approach to increasing participation by disabled or less-able people.

11.3.13  Early stage scoping projects considered by the Saffron Walden sports groups for a multi sports campus consider that it could include around 3 rugby pitches (2 to be floodlit) and 8 junior and training pitches for rugby and football. This level of provision would enable the Rugby Club to apply to the Rugby Football Union for funding for a 3G pitch. It could also include 6 further fields for training and provision for an athletics track and field training and events. It could further include a cricket pitch for the 2nd XI, and a building which would host a sports hall, clubhouse facilities and a demountable competition standard pool. In addition, walking and running trails would also be included as part of the scheme. Saffron Striders, the running club would be able to use the facilities and therefore accept new members under the age of 17, who are currently excluded for insurance reasons because the club has to train on the pavements through the town. Likewise, WALDENTri, the triathlon club would also have a safe and permanent base to operate from. Ensuring that the facilities would be accessible for less-able and disabled athletes would be key to the design process.

11.3.14  The sports clubs and Saffron Walden Town Council are currently reviewing options for sites. Requirements for the site include accessibility by active travel modes and acceptability in planning terms (to include matters such as impact on landscape and from lighting). Land adjoining Bridge End Garden and Windmill Hill would be an example of a good location for this project, as it is in a good location for access and has been rejected by the UDC as a location for housing. This land is privately owned by a trust connected to the Fry family (who also own Bridge End Garden, on lease to SWTC). Another parcel of land which has been identified as being potentially suitable is the field immediately to the south of the “Green Mile” (land next to the leisure centre) with access from Thaxted Road. This belongs to the developer Kier.

11.3.15  A multi-sports campus would be subject to a community use agreement to ensure the facilities afford the widest possible access to everyone in the community.

11.3.16  Regardless of whether the multi-sports campus goes ahead, or whether another project is subsequently viewed as more beneficial to the parish, all development must contribute towards the creation of new or the improvement of existing sports facilities. This would be carried out via Section 106 agreements or CIL contributions. Section 106 agreements are subject to complex rules, one of which is that no more than five sources of funding can be used for any single project. This means that a small development, which would contribute a relatively small amount, could contribute to a project such as refurbishment of existing facilities so as to increase their capacity. Larger developments would provide funding towards larger and more expensive projects such as the supply of whole new facilities.

11.3.17  The May 2019 UDC Playing Pitch Strategy recommendation (g) “Secure developer contributions” sets out the clear steps that must be taken to determine the appropriate level of contribution:

For playing pitches, the Council should use Sport England’s Playing Pitch New Development Calculator as a tool for determining developer contributions linking to sites within the locality. This uses team generation rates (TGRs) from the Assessment Report to determine how many new teams would be generated from an increase in population derived from hosing growth. It then converts this into pitch requirements and gives the associated costs (both for providing the provision and for its life cycle).

The PPS should be used to help determine the likely impact of a new development on demand and the capacity of existing sites in the area, and whether there is a need for improvements to increase capacity of existing provision or if new provision is required. Where a development is located within access of existing high-quality provision, this does not necessarily mean that there is no need for further provision or improvement to existing provision, as additional demand arising from the development is likely to result in increased usage (which can result in overplay or quality deterioration).

Where it is determined that new provision is required to accompany a development, priority should be placed on providing facilities that contribute towards alleviating existing shortfalls within the locality. To determine what supply of provision is provided, it is imperative that the PPS findings are taken into consideration and that consultation takes place with the relevant NGBs. This is due to the importance of ensuring that the stock of facilities provided is correct to avoid provision becoming unsustainable and unused, such as single grass pitch football sites without adequate ancillary facilities or new cricket/rugby grounds located away from existing clubs. Instead, multi-pitch and multi-sport sites should be developed, supported by a clubhouse and adequate parking facilities which consider the potential for future AGP development. The guidance should form the basis for negotiation with developers to secure contributions to include provision and/or enhancement of appropriate playing fields and subsequent maintenance. Section 106 contributions could also be used to improve the condition and maintenance regimes of the pitches in order to increase pitch capacity to accommodate more matches.”

11.3.18   Contributions from developers may take the form of money or an equivalent value of land, depending on which is more appropriate for the circumstances.





  1. SAF3 as described in the eLP is a SWNP site allocation and proposals for 10 dwellings will be supported subject to specific requirements which are set out in Policy SW3 Land at Viceroy Coaches.
  2. SAF4 as described in the eLP is a SWNP site allocation and proposals for 12 dwellings will be supported.
  3. Land at Shire Hill as described in planning application UTT/17/2832/OP is a SWNP site allocation and proposals for 100 dwellings will be supported.
  4. This housing requirement is not a ceiling for housing growth. However, the only additional development outside the identified allocations or beyond the development limits which might in principle be acceptable will be:

(a) community-led development; or

(b) proposals brought forward by a Community Land Trust group.

In each case the development must be for affordable housing.

  1. The SWNP acknowledges that eLP policies H7 Affordable Housing on Exception Sites, H11 Specialist Housing, H12 Agricultural/Rural Workers’ Dwellings and SP10 Protection of the Countryside will also apply to the SWNP area when the eLP is adopted.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 3,4,5


Please use the relevant section numbers as reference markers when writing your comments.

15 Responses

  1. Has anyone actually worked out the area needed for 3 rugby pitches, 8 shared rugby and football fields, 6 further fields,
    a cricket pitch, a sports hall, clubhouse facilities and a demountable competition standard pool plus running and walking trails plus all the associated parking ……… it certainly will not fit onto the field owned by Kier off the Thaxted Rd.
    This site is a non-starter as it is on a steep hill with a major gas main running beneath, cutting pitches into the hill won’t work.
    There hasn’t been any consultation with more modern sports who don’t use pitches and are more individual and free to use. What about a BMX track ? The consultation seems to have been only concerned with “old fashioned” sports.

  2. Objective 2 states :- Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.
    The population of SW, like most other areas, is aging. Sports such as rugby and football are terrific, but there are barriers for even middle-aged people, let alone oldies to take part, physical and mental.
    Activities such as jogging and running are much more accessible to all ages but are really good for maintaining health. In 2019 Saffron Striders introduced over 70 people, aged up to 68, to start running through a Beginners course, so it is clear there is a demand. That was done from a nothing ‘base’ which was the outside of Lord Butler. All of the equipment used was stored at various homes. There is no facility to allow socialising (which is what newcomers to a sport often seek) such as having a coffee and cake together after a training session or run. In fact there is no facility.
    This is not an issue unique to running. A building that provides spaces for equipment storage, a communal area for simple food and drink after events, hot and cold water, showers and changing will be welcomed by many sports, whether or not it is associated with a team sports field.
    I say this as the notes provided do appear to focus on the large spaces required for rugby and football.

  3. Saffron Striders membership has increased rapidly over the last few years, from 113 in 2015 to 242 in 2019. This indicates that a growing number of people are taking on board the fact that sport and activity is beneficial to health; both physical and mental. However, whether the sport is more structured, requiring sports halls and playing fields, or less structured needing trails, paths and open areas, there is a quite a deficit in locally available facilities and space.

    This is particularly the case in winter where short daylight hours and wet/muddy trails limit available activity space further. For example, Saffron Striders typically have 50 to 70 runners at the main weekly training session, often running as a group. This is impossible to completely accommodate on narrow pavements, many of which are blocked by parked cars.

    For health, government guidance is 150 mins moderate activity (or 75 vigorous activity) a week. It would be great to have more lit, well-surfaced paths and tracks to encourage more year-round activity.

  4. The opening comment in this section is absolutely true…the sports facility provision in and around the Saffron Walden area has been very poor and without cohesive direction for many years. During this time the population of our villages and the town has grown substantially and existing facilties are short on capacity and suffering from prolonged wear and tear
    Over decades, Saffron Walden sports clubs have punched above their weight, but this becomes more difficult as the clubs grow, they have burgeoning junior sections with long waiting lists, but are handicapped with restrictions on the capacity of available facilities
    This community deserves a much better deal
    A modern suite of facilties on a single site would present economies of scale and the possibility to produce a design that serves traditional, new and emerging sports activities. Importantly, it would provide a much needed centre for those involved in all types of sports and physical activity to meet and socialise
    This is about visionary thinking and innovation. Subject to identifying and acquiring a suitable site, a multi sports campus, which is what other Local Authorities across the country are embracing, presents a wonderful opportunity to offer more capacity and a wider range of physical activities for the long term

  5. More multi sport facilities are required in Saffron Walden. The hugely popular triathlon and running clubs do not have any outdoor running training facilities nearby and very limited swimming pool time (1hr per week) at Lord Butler. Travelling to other facilities, the nearest which are over 30mins drive away, creates pollution and deters people from taking part in these healthy lifestyle activities. Many pavements in saffron walden are either badly lit at night or very narrow, and have parked cars on them, making them unsafe for winter night running.

  6. Saffron Walden Hockey Club have 8 men’s teams and 6 ladies teams. We have over 300 juniors that we accommodate, and we have waiting lists for all age groups. We have one pitch based at Joyce Frankland Academy and are in desperate need for a second pitch. Our demographic ranges from under 8’s to adults in their 60’s still playing.
    No where in the section I have read despite numerous consultations, phone calls and meetings does this document mention the need for a second pitch for Hockey. . As usual UDC have absolutely no clue, we were forced out of Walden at the same time as the Rugby Club due to the lack of foresight and planning within Uttlesford – a shambles is too polite a word.

  7. WaldenJNR is the junior section of WaldenTRI. It was formed 11 years ago and has grown to become the largest junior triathlon club in the country with in excess of 200 junior members. Up until the closure of the Friends School, the club had 3 hours of weekly access to the swimming pool, gym and playing fields.

    Since the closure of the Friends school, the club has been able to use Carver Barracks airfield for cycling and running but can only offer 1 hour of swim training to about 15 members at the Lord Butler pool and 2 hours of swim training in Bishops Stortford to 50 members. The later results in a one hour round trip for members and coaches. The club is unable to provide any swimming opportunity to over 130 members due to the lack of pool time. The club has no access to a gym again because of the lack of provision in the town.

    The club and the community have an urgent need for better sport facilities, especially a need for a new swimming pool. A minimum 8 lane pool 25m pool. 8 lanes are so that club training session can run in parallel with public swimming, with each using 4 lanes. The current pool at 5 lane Lord Butler pool does not allow this and this has been the main stumbling block in gaining access to the pool.

  8. There has been a huge increase in the participation of children and youths in mainstream recreational sport over the past 20 years. There has been little or no support for the respective clubs, particularly from the relevant authorities in supporting facility upgrades over this period. It is a great credit to our local clubs, and their committed volunteers that they continue to punch well above their weight competitively and offer an enjoyable experience for their many members. This policy seeks to address the very real shortfall in facilities for the children of Uttlesford and Saffron Walden in particular. The policy contains innovative and viable proposals to further sports participation in the Saffron Walden area. Given the very large number of participants of all ages and both sexes in mainstream sports, implementation of this policy should a deliver a very significant and sustainable improvement in the health and wellbeing within our community

  9. Cricket, Rugby, Football, Athletics, Triathlon, Hockey and Swimming -all these sports and their well-run committees have contributed significantly to the vibrancy of the local community and each is supported by a platform of dedicated volunteers. At present, the rugby club is situated out at Henham and most of the clubs are reliant on out-of-hours use of spare school facilities and various playing fields that are within and around the edges of the town and its surrounding villages. Saffron Striders may be found, even on winter Tuesday nights, training on the dark urban roads and pavements of the town.
    In recent years there has been particularly strong growth in the junior ranks of the clubs:
    • Saffron Walden Community Football Club now runs 42 boys youth teams, plus soccer schools and 10 girls teams, of which only 4 can currently play at or around Catons Lane and urgently needs the promised 3G pitch at County High School
    • Every weekend, SW Rugby Club needs 14 pitches of various sizes for training age-groups from U6 to U12
    • In addition to its 4 senior teams, Saffron Walden Cricket Club currently runs a total of 15 teams for junior boys and girls, the majority of which are in its Academy framework
    • The Walden Juniors Triathlon Club has 160 active members between 7yrs and 17yrs and a waiting list of over 100. Further progress for the club has been severely impeded by the loss of the school pool and playing fields which were regularly used for Walden JNR Tri swimming training and primary school cross-country championships.
    • SW Hockey Club, based at the Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport, fields 14 teams each Saturday and a similar number of teams across age-groups U10-U18. It currently has one 22yr old Astroturf pitch at Newport and depends on shared use of a second pitch at SW County High School.

    • The District Council has been made aware on many occasions that the sports facility infrastructure in North Uttlesford is over stretched and under-funded. There is little or no spare capacity and we already have vigorous growth in our local population which will continue. There is a strong view among the major sports clubs that we are at a critical time for development of a multi-sports hub that can embrace both senior and junior sport and training whilst also creating opportunities for broader physical activity and health within the wider community. This Neighbourhood Plan provides a sound basis for influencing the third iteration of the District’s Local Plan process and helping to achieve the above long-term objective.

  10. I think it is integral for Saffron Walden to identify that there is a huge short fall in facilities for young people in the town. From growing up in the town and seeing youth involvement become increasingly important with mental health and social encouragement it is undeniable that some type of permanent infrastructure needs to be built in town. Personally I believe that the SW rugby club And cricket club play the largest role in sheer numbers of youth involvement in the town and it would be very encouraging to see the Rugby Club become a central, accessible point in Saffron Walden, rather then being hidden away in Henham.

  11. I’m not from Saffron Walden but I can safely say that the development of sports facilities such as the cricket club and skate park in my village in NE Cambs has helped the young people of the area to feel more at home and accepted in an area that is predominantly focused on satisfying the needs of the older members of society. Young people in more rural communities outside of the city really struggle to participate in the community spirit when there is nothing for us there, and so putting more work into sports facilities in these areas can not only be extremely beneficial for the wellbeing of the young who spend less and less time in their local areas in favour of the cities where there is more of a community spirit that bridges generational divides, but it can also help the older generations feel more connected to the youth and get behind their passions in supporting their sporting endeavours and achievements. Development of sports facilities within a community really does tie the locals closer together in a time when it’s really needed!

  12. It is refreshing to see a formal plan and objectives relating to the development of young people through sport and physical activity generally. As a long standing volunteer in the world of Mini and Youth Rugby, I can attest to the principle that ‘Sport is a metaphor for life’. I have been directly involved in coaching young people and now run the Mini and Youth section of Saffron Walden Rugby Football Club and I can provide first hand evidence of children and youth who, through sport, have found an immense improvement in their mental as well as physical condition . These same youngsters have, in many cases, become positive contributors to society where possibly their contributions might not have been so positive without their involvement in Sport.

  13. The provision Rugby Facilities in the town would be of great benefit to a huge range of people from all walks of life. From a personal point of view my Son and Daughter both joined the Club 25 plus Years ago in the Mini Section progressing through the various age groups. My Son is still an Integral part of the Senior Playing Section. There are families from all age groups from 5 to 85 involved in the Club. It is now second and third generations that are making new friends and enjoying the community spirit a Club like ours provides.
    I believe that having plans in place to bring the Club into Town will be great for the wider community providing lasting friendships whilst giving the hundreds of Children and Adults at the Club a local outlet keeping them physically fit but as importantly giving them pride in themselves and community they belong. As one of many volunteers I fully support the proposals.

  14. I have lived in this wonderful town for 50 years and seen it grow in many positive ways.I remember school swimming lessons in the old pool,having to jump off the balcony into the pool for the gold standard life saving badge.Now we have a sports centre with a 25 meter length( and no balcony you have to jump from!)However we have now out grown this pool to.As a town we pride ourselves in healthy living yet sadly we have little to cater for those with disabilities,special needs or simply some were those with less confidence can enjoy the world of sport.
    I have been a guide for a blind runner and I know how challenging this can be.We have an all ladies running club that brings together a wonderful group of people.Thanks to the cricket club we have an area to run we can use but again more facilities would make such a difference.
    Teams are made on the games pitches,in spaces that feel safe.Mentle health is so important and it has been proven time and time again how exercise can help.
    What an opportunity we could have.

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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.


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