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Community, Sports And Leisure Facility Strategy For Highland

20th November 2023

The Education Committee of Highland Council will on Thursday 23 November 2023 discuss an updated strategy on Community, Sports And Leisure Facilities.

This report proposes a two-stage approach to the development of vibrant community hubs in Highland communities incorporating community, sports, leisure, library, and other services as follows:
i. Stage 1 - the development of a Highland Council strategic framework for the development of community hubs as proposed in this report.
ii. Stage 2 - the development of local plans at associated school group (ASG) area level which creates 29 plans for community, sport, leisure, library, and other facilities important to communities.

The proposed strategy recognises current constraints on capital investment and the challenging financial outlook. The strategy provides the opportunity to:
i. ensure that best use of available capital investment is made, and opportunities to develop hubs within existing capital plans are recognised at an early stage in project planning,
ii. supports the Council's asset rationalisation plan by looking to co-location of provision within communities,
iii. supports the levering in of external funding, including from agencies such as sportscotland, through clear and articulated vision and strategy for facilities.

While the discussion started with sportscotland wishing to partner with the Council on sports facilities, it is clear that Highland communities and the people living in them engage in a range of services and the highest increases in participation having been achieved in the past through the provision of multi-use facilities where, for example, libraries, sports facilities, community meeting spaces and service points have been co-located. There are many services which are trying to reach the same customers and co-location make this easier, more cost effective and is better for customers.

To ensure that there is a long-term plan for our communities, this strategy seeks to ensure that key links are made, particularly with the future of the school estate (which often forms natural focus points for communities) and local development plans. This document sets out the principles for investment over the long-term and the next step towards ensuring the area is well served by appropriate facilities will be the development of individual plans for each of the Council's 29 associated school group areas.

There are a number of examples of where the Council has built facilities which have improved community life over past capital programmes. These Include:

• Aviemore Community Facility - this combined a primary school, library, leisure centre, service point and village hall facility. A community owned village hall and library were closed to build the new centre and the combination of the facilities has saved staff costs (by combining the reception role with the library one) and resulted in increased use. The centre is incredibly busy after the end of the school day and the library acts as an informal community meeting space particularly for parents of primary school aged children.

• The Fingal Centre, Portree - when a new secondary school was being built the Council took the opportunity to incorporate: a joint school and community library; leisure centre; and archive centre into the facility. This allowed the former swimming pool and library, which were separate buildings, to be closed with the associated property cost savings. Community use of the facilities increased.

• Sunart Centre - When the new Ardnamurchan High School was built, library, leisure and community space was included, partly through designing the school facilities in a way which allows community access. This approach allows provision to be made for school and community use without significantly increasing the footprint of the building compared with it being a standalone school and is a proportionate way of ensuring that there is provision for smaller communities.

• East Caithness Community Facility - the creation of the new school allowed the Council to close the old town pool and library, generating property efficiencies while significantly improving services and increasing footfall to the library and leisure centre.

• Grantown Service Point - the library and service point in Grantown were combined and even a modest example like this has led to increased visitors in both the service point and library.

Should the Council adopt this strategic approach of developing integrated school and community leisure and library facilities this could (from a capital resource perspective) be linked to the schools capital programme on a case-by-case basis in communities, taking account of existing facilities, their suitability and condition, leading to asset rationalisation opportunities. This will allow a planned approach which can also take advantage of external funding opportunities.

It is recommended that this report be adopted as the Council's strategic approach to community facility provision and that the next step be to carry out the detailed work on an ASG-by-ASG basis which will inform future Council capital planning work as well as supporting the work which it is doing on asset rationalisation, net zero, etc. through its thematic groups.

Read the full paper HERE


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