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Developing Participation in Sport

Falmouth School

 

Developing Participation in Sport and Physical Activity for the Community of Falmouth

 

Falmouth School until very recently was a unique school site nationally, due to a Hospital being in the middle of its site.  The school has been working on this project for the last four years and during this time the plans have been endorsed by secretaries of state for Health, education and Culture, Media and Sport for the school to sell.  The project was discussed on the floor of the House of Commons back in June of 2013 as a project the would deliver ‘a win-win situation for the local community and the school’, a project that had the support of Cornwall Council members, the newly elected town councillor for the ward and the Major of Falmouth.  And why not?  The schools plans are as unique as the site itself as they are in the very rare position of selling school fields to buy more school fields and make the school site larger and more accessible.

 

Since then the school has developed its plans with a very careful eye on planning guidelines and have held further public consultations that have shown overwhelming support for the schools plans.  At the last public consultation held in December the plans including the current location of facilities were shared to an enthusiastic local population who endorsed our scheme with over 91% of public opinion supporting our plans.

 

The school successfully applied for change of use planning for the hospital site to become school sports fields last year and has now purchased the hospital site.  The school is currently in the process of developing sports pitches on the site.  This is a £1million project that the school has financed to ensure that its obligations are in place to provide replacement pitches for those lost on the other side of the busy Union Road.  In addition, this project is now nationally recognised as an investment need since the school has now successfully secured a grant offer of almost £400k from the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund for the development of an all-weather artificial surface to be built at the school.

 

The scheme brings a vast array of benefits to the students of Falmouth and the local community.  Cornwall’s Health and Wellbeing strategy of 2015 highlighted that:

 

  • 1 in 3 children leaving primary school are overweight and there are an estimated 16,000 obese children in the county.  This scheme links strongly with our local primary schools and will see primary children coming into the school to use the facilities;
  • Only 13% of adults in the county receive their recommended level of physical activity.  This scheme will see an increase of more than 1000 regular sports participants over the next five years in the local area across a range of sports.
  • Life expectancy for men and women in deprived areas is over 5 years less than average.  The town has wards within that appear in the 10% and 20% most deprived areas of the country.

 

 

There are other areas of concern that this project helps to combat:

 

  • Cornwall FA’s 2013/14 report into participation cited that the then Carrick area had below average numbers of youth teams, particularly at U7 and U8 as well as U17 and U18.  It also showed a below national average figure for adult participation. 
  • The 2014 Cornwall Open Space strategy that shows that the Falmouth area has 39% lower than average level of children’s play.
  • The draft Cornwall Sports Pitch Strategy predicts a shortfall in junior & adult football pitches and rugby pitches in the area.

 

In order to take on the challenge of these issues, the School has permission from the Secretary of State to sell the fields at Union Corner to fund the development of sports facilities at the school.  This sale will bring over £3million of funding into the school that will be used to develop sport not just for the school but for the whole community. 

 

The sports Hub site that is planned will see a huge increase in sports participation in the community.  The projected figures for the next 5 years participation (vetted by the FA) resulting from the building of an artificial pitch show close to an additional thousand people actively being involved in sport in Falmouth:

  • An increase of 345 7-18yr olds and 275 adults playing regular football in the town. 
  • An increase of 331 youngsters and adults taking part in other sports

 

The creation of the Sports Hub building will improve access to existing facilities and enhance the experience for those taking part in sport.  It will add further community benefit through the creation of a gym and fitness/education suites for the school and community.

 

We have tailored our scheme to public onion which has resulted in overwhelming support for the project in all of our public consultations during the planning of this proposal.  The last consultation in November showed a 90% plus approval rating for the scheme.  Where there were issues, we responded.  A state of the art floodlighting scheme showed that there would be no light spill, the noise which of course already exists on the site has been improved with an acoustic barrier and the residents parking concerns met throught the addition of a large number of parking spaces.  

 

The location of the sports facilities have been chosen carefully to ensure that the sports facilities would work for all concerned.  Close to the school, benefiting from additional parking, allowing for easier access to the facilities and from the facilities to the whole of the school site.  With his layout the schools existing facilities and hence other sports will benefit as well as those played on an artificial turf pitch.  Other locations around the school site were carefully considered first.  The schools ‘Channel 4’ fields were looked at as a possible venue but were considered too far away from the school meaning that additional access would need to be created for a facility that wouldn’t connect with the school.  This site also has no development around it meaning that the site would be changed considerably in character.  The former Budock Hospital appeared to be the obvious choice but unfortunately the demolition of the hospital site has left too many unanswered questions relating to the grounds capacity to take the building of an artificial turf pitch and the site would potentially result in a build cost of double the amount of anywhere else on the school.

 

The sports hub building will be the icing on the cake for the project.  Plenty of changing space for a wide array of users, the inclusion of a gymnasium, education rooms and multiuse rooms that will be able to host yoga or pilates at one point and a parent having a coffee whilst watching their kids play football the next moment.  This will make the facility into a real benefit for the community benefit, finally emulating the potential for the project raised in the House of Commons over two years ago.

 

There is no other plan of this sort for Falmouth; indeed it is unique nationally in the opportunity that it delivers.  In an era of austerity and cuts, there is no other way that this level of funding will become available for the development of sport in Falmouth.  There is no better way to offer the community of Falmouth the facility and opportunity it deserves.

 

The school was disappointed that the Town Council felt that they no longer agreed with the schools plans and that there seemed to be a misinterpretation of intent that overshadowed the fantastic development potential at the school.  Since the meeting we have received a multitude letters and comments of support for the scheme that we have forwarded onto the council.  This support reiterated to us that this project has a huge amount of support from within the community and we hope that the coming weeks will see an open and honest, realistic discussion about the plans.  The delivery of a life changing facility for thousands within the community of Falmouth for now and the future depends on it.

Posted on: 1/03/16

Head of School's Blog

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