Agenda item

Overview and Update on Sports Development and Arts Development in Breckland (Agenda Item 8)

Report of the Business Transformation Director. 


The Business Transformation Director (formerly PFI Manager) attended for this item to present the report, which updated members on the progress of sports and arts development in the district and outlined future plans and opportunities.


The sports and arts development function was re-established following the successful signing of the PFI Contract and the first year of the new arrangements was just completed.   Funding of £90,000 was available, shared between arts and sports development and towards health improvement work.  (The post of Health Improvement Officer was funded by the Norfolk Primary Care Trust.)


The establishment comprised the permanent posts of Senior Leisure Manager and Sports Development Officer and a two-year fixed term contract post of Arts Development Officer.


The role of sports and arts development was to enable a greater number of residents to engage in and gain access to cultural and leisure opportunities in the district.  This was being achieved by working strategically with key delivery agencies, such as Active Norfolk and Creative Arts East, and by enabling local individuals, communities and organisations to develop their own initiatives.


Sports Development:  A variety of initiatives had been developed to address the recommendations of the Cultural Strategy and the priorities and objectives of the Council.  The Sports Development Officer was working with the various local sports clubs and organisations to deliver a variety of courses around the district.


Strong partnerships had been formed with agencies such as Active Norfolk, Sport England, Sports Coach UK, Skills Active, National Governing Bodies of Sport, School Sports Partnerships, Parkwood Leisure (the authority’s leisure operator under the PFI), as well as with community clubs, leisure facility providers, coaches, village hall committees and schools.


Such a joint approach had created new opportunities and enabled access to information, assistance and financial/human resources.  Partnership events and activities, such as the Active Norfolk Youth Games and the Community Sports Coach scheme had been very successful and proved the worth of these partnerships.


Priorities for the coming year included assisting clubs to achieve ‘Club Mark’ standard, further development of the holiday activities programme, upskilling the sports workforce, engaging with partner agencies to deliver cross-cutting themes, as well as exploring diversionary activities in key areas.  In addition, it was proposed to develop a directory of opportunities to help clubs attract more participants.


Draft projects were being developed with a view to drawing down further funding for sports activity and grass roots delivery in the district as part of the Community Sports Network.


Arts Development:  Again, various initiatives had been developed to address the recommendations in the Cultural Strategy and the priorities and objectives of the Council.   Festivals, carnivals and community events had been supported in all five towns and relevant parishes which had enabled them to diversity and extend professional live programmes and reach new audiences.  Rural areas had been supported in particular through a professional touring theatre scheme and holiday arts activities.


Opportunities for local artists to practice, exhibit and perform had been developed, for example through the Open Studios scheme and the purchase of portable exhibition screens for community hire.  In addition, participatory workshop and visual art competition and other such initiatives had been introduced.


As for sports development, strong partnerships had been established with other agencies, such as Norfolk County Council, Creative Arts East, Norfolk Music Works, Norfolk and Norwich Festival, The SeaChange Trust, Theatre Is, as well as with other district arts officers.  This partnership working had enabled a collaborative approach to the development of new opportunities, bringing benefits in terms of financial, human and physical resources that otherwise would not have been accessible.


In the forthcoming year, it was proposed that more generic support for community arts and heritage groups would be available through networking events, equipment hire, email and web-based information.  Other key areas of work would entail greater cultural involvement with developments such as the Dereham Memorial Hall and plans relating to Thetford Growth Point Status, support for the creative industries and development of the Arts Award scheme for young people.


Holiday Activity Programme:  The holiday activity programme had proved very successful and copies of the Breckland Summer Activities Guide 2007 were distributed to members.


Since the programme was introduced in October 2006, over 600 young people had attended the holiday activity sessions run in the half term and Easter holidays.  All events had achieved a 100% satisfied/very satisfied rating, with 100% of those attending indicating that they would attend again if similar events were organised.  These satisfaction levels were very pleasing.


In answer to questions, it was noted that there were proposals to develop activities for the under-5 age group and also for the over-14 age group.


Members suggested some additional village venues for future holiday activities programmes.


Concerns were raised by a Swaffham ward member about the deterioration in the leisure centre facilities provided under the dual use arrangements at Hamonds High School. 


In response, it was explained that the dual use centres were taken out of the PFI contract arrangements and that, instead, the Council had entered into a five-year management agreement with Parkwood Leisure in relation to these centres.  It was confirmed that the existing annual budget transferred to Parkwood under this arrangement was very small and gave little scope for initiatives.  However, repair and maintenance of the existing fixtures and fittings was the responsibility of the Norfolk County Council as Education Authority and it was noted that major capital investment had been made at the school but that the school had not included the leisure facilities within that programme.   It was noted that there was a possibility that the management agreement on the dual use centres with Parkwood Leisure might be re-negotiable to give a longer, more viable period which could enable the company to develop some facilities there but any such provisions could not be in competition with existing facilities under the PFI contract.


A member drew attention to the importance of footpaths and bridleways to leisure activities and felt that this was an area that seemed to be neglected in the wider aspect of rural leisure/health provision.


Although Breckland did have a Walking for Health programme, it was accepted that this was an area that could be explored further.  Play provision was another objective within the Leisure Strategy and the question of footpaths and bridleways could fit within that.


It was pointed out that the responsibility for designated public footpaths and bridleways lay with the County Council but it was felt that the general public was not fully aware of this.


The Panel was informed that a further update on the approved work plans of the Arts and Sports Development Officers would be brought to the Panel’s October meeting.


Members thanked the Business Transformation Director for his report and


         RESOLVED that the report be noted and a review of public footpaths / walkways / bridleways as part of the wider leisure / health agenda be added to the Panel’s future work programme.


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