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


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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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