No sports clubs to pay increased hire charges for playing fields and park pavilions

Town and community councils and sports clubs begin Community Asset Transfer process for all 39 playing fields and 40 park pavilions

Cabinet to meet on February 25 to discuss new funding packages for pitch and playing field improvements

Cabinet members at Bridgend County Borough Council will discuss a series of new measures on February 25 designed to bolster its Community Asset Transfer (CAT) package and help sports clubs, town and community councils and other organisations take on more responsibility for outdoor sports facilities in the county borough.

As of the end of January 2020, 48 sports clubs and town and community councils had expressed their interest in self-managing facilities, including all playing fields and park pavilions across the county borough. The county borough has around 60 clubs and 530 teams.

With expressions of interest now received on every relevant facility in the area, the proposals involve providing extra funding for the maintenance of sports pitches, cricket wickets and bowling greens - and more time for organisations to complete the transfer process.

Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: "I am delighted to see that expressions of interest are in place for each and every one of our local sports facilities. This has always been about finding new ways to provide such facilities in the face of massive cuts to council funding, and ensure that they can remain open for public use.

"The council will not introduce full cost recovery charges for any facility where there is a commitment by an organisation to self-manage it either by full lease or licence.

"Enabling and supporting clubs to take on greater responsibility remains the right thing to do, and the council is fully committed as it ensures long-term sustainability and greater local input.

"The council was subsidising some facilities by more than 80 per cent of the actual cost, so this is far better than increasing fees or having to close sports pavilions entirely because we have not been able to invest in them due to ongoing financial austerity."

For some time, the authority has warned that it can no longer afford to run outdoor sports facilities, and has been promoting CAT transfers as a way of ensuring facilities remain open in the community.

On Tuesday, February 25, cabinet members will consider supporting a range of measures to bolster the CAT package. They include:

·       Providing sports clubs and the council with more time to complete transfers due to the high levels of engagement from clubs, and town and community councils.

·       Setting aside £50,000 to commission specialists to undertake independent condition surveys of sports pitches, greens and wickets so that future maintenance requirements can be determined.

·       Developing a programme of sports pitch improvement and drainage capital grants from £5,000 to £25,000 in consultation with sports governing bodies to ensure that prioritised sites are fit for purpose.

·       Establishing pitch maintenance equipment grants from £5,000 up to £10,000 to assist in the purchase of equipment to self-manage green spaces.

·       Providing bowls clubs with a one-off grant of £5,000 for each site on the condition clubs complete a CAT lease and take over the bowls green maintenance on a day-to-day basis from September 30, 2020. Historically, bowls clubs have not paid any hire charges.

·       Establishing a joint CAT advisory panel featuring council officers and representatives of national sports governing bodies such as Cricket Wales, the Football Association of Wales and the Wales Rugby Union to help achieve the best outcome for the community. The first meeting of the advisory panel is due to take place in March.

The Bridgend Sports Team Support Fund

A £75,000 fund is being set up to support voluntary sports clubs based in the county borough.

While applications will be open to any age group, the scheme will prioritise support for mini, junior and youth sports teams as well as under-represented sports groups.

Grants which will be limited to a maximum of £2,000 per team could potentially be match-funded by the Sports Wales Community Chest or the governing bodies of each sport.

Grants could cover the cost of equipment, training and day-to-day operating costs - and the fund will be open twice a year to receive bids.

Progress to date

At the moment, leases are being finalised for 11 pitches and playing fields in the county borough with business cases being developed for a further 21 and discussions ongoing with an additional 16 facilities.

This involves seven town and community councils - Coity Higher, Cornelly, Laleston, Llangynwyd Lower, Newcastle Higher, Pencoed and Porthcawl.

Meanwhile informal discussions have also been held with a further five town and community councils - Coychurch Lower, Llangynwyd Middle, Maesteg, Ogmore Valley and Ynysawdre - regarding the future arrangements of pavilions and playing fields in their areas.

There are eight CATs to sports clubs which are due to be completed shortly involving Bridgend Athletic Club, Caerau FC, Carn Rovers FC, Kenfig Hill RFC, Maesteg Harlequins RFC, Maesteg Park FC, Pencoed Athletic BGC and Rest Bay Sports, which is a joint venture between FC Porthcawl and Porthcawl United.

To date, six projects have been allocated from the £1million CAT fund totaling up to £340,000.

They include £50,000 for Careau FC to refurbish the existing pavilion at Hermon Road / Metcalf Street Playing Fields, £45,000 for Rest Bay Sports to refurbish the existing pavilion on the Rest Bay playing fields, and £75,000 for Pencoed Town Council to enable repairs to the Pencoed Recreation Ground Pavilion.

A different strategy is being drawn up for Newbridge Fields, Maesteg Welfare Park and Aberfields which are all extensively used as public parks by local residents and visitors, as well as by sports clubs.

A stakeholder steering group is due to be established for each of the three sites to determine the most appropriate way of managing and developing the facilities in the future.

Safeguarding the future of outdoor sports facilities

Cllr Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: "Implementing a policy involving a huge hike in charges for outdoor sports facilities was the last thing we wanted to do as a council, but we felt we had no choice if we were to safeguard these facilities for future generations.

"They were only ever a last resort if local organisations were unwilling to take on greater responsibility via the CAT process - a situation that has now gone away.

"Since the policy came in, the response from sports clubs has been exceptional with a clear openness and desire to work in partnership with the council.

"The selling point for them is they will be able to improve on the facilities that are deteriorating year on year at present while from our perspective, it allows us to ensure sport in the community can not only continue, but thrive.

"We are not the first local authority to adopt a policy similar to this one, and we are unlikely to be the last as many sports clubs and organisations have been successfully running their own facilities for many years."

He added: "The good news is that the better than expected financial settlement we received from Welsh Government has allowed the council to provide town and community councils and sports clubs with more time to complete transfers.

"It has also enabled us to invest more in our sports facilities by providing financial assistance for organisations who are committed to completing transfers.

"We want to help clubs and town and community councils manage and improve sports facilities, and ensure they are sustainable in the long-term.

"In view of the current level of interest in CATs, the dialogue with national sports governing bodies and the enhanced funding packages we are proposing, the council is confident that transfers will accelerate significantly over the coming year."

He added: "The plan is to broaden the scope of the existing £1million CAT Fund - which will be replenished as necessary - for not only essential building works, but also for pitch improvements and equipment purchases.

"It is evident that a number of the pitches, greens and wickets are in a poor condition due to budget cuts and issues surrounding drainage, so we are encouraging clubs and local councils to come forward and make the most of the grant funding that is being made available."

The council currently manages 39 playing fields which includes 40 pavilions, 43 football pitches, 25 rugby pitches, 14 bowling greens and six cricket squares. A series of independent condition surveys is due to get underway soon on all council-controlled pavilions to determine what funding requirements will be necessary in the future.

The Leader, Cllr Huw David said: "In view of the current level of interest in asset transfers from town and community councils and local sports clubs, the increased resources intended to be deployed by the council to support CAT, the positive dialogue with the relevant governing bodies, and the enhanced packages of support that are now in place, the council is confident that the process of completing CAT's will accelerate significantly over the next year.

"The situation beyond April 2021 will need to be re-assessed by the council in December 2020 to take account of the financial settlement from Welsh Government for 2021-22 and the level of CAT activity, particularly the number of completed transfers."

He added: "We recognise the extremely important role that town and community councils play in helping to manage and maintain facilities and services that have been threatened by austerity.

"We also acknowledge that in some cases, because of their direct links to local communities and sports clubs, town and community councils may be better placed to work in partnership at a local level to develop long-term sustainable solutions."

The proposals will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, February 25.


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