Update on plans for Football Foundation ‘PlayZone’ in Southwick area of Sunderland

It aims to help improve access to sport
Site of proposed PlayZone football and basketball area near Southwick Community Centre, Sunderland (October, 2023)Site of proposed PlayZone football and basketball area near Southwick Community Centre, Sunderland (October, 2023)
Site of proposed PlayZone football and basketball area near Southwick Community Centre, Sunderland (October, 2023)

Plans for new football and basketball facilities in Southwick to help “tackle inequalities” around access to sport will be decided by councillors next week.

Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee will discuss an application for land at Church Street near Southwick Community Centre.

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This includes a bid to redevelop an old sports area into a new facility with a ‘polymeric surfaced area’, new perimeter fencing, LED floodlights and ancillary equipment.

The pilot scheme is part of the Football Foundation’s PlayZones Programme which aims to “tackle inequalities in physical activity and access to high-quality facilities in targeted areas”.

Community engagement has already been undertaken by Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project, which leases the development land and the adjacent youth centre from the council, to help inform and discuss the proposals.

Council planning officers, in a report prepared ahead of a decision-making Planning and Highways Committee next week, have recommended the scheme for approval.

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Council officials said the current site is in an “overall poor state of repair and not in a condition by which to fulfil its original intended use as a venue for sporting activity”.

New plans for the site aim to provide community benefits and “encourage active and healthy lifestyles in a sustainable location”.

To help reduce noise from the development, conditions are also recommended for controlling the hours of use, as well as the erection of an acoustic fence and submission of a noise management plan.

In addition, a condition will be added “securing the location, maintenance and retention of the lighting in perpetuity over the lifetime of the development”.

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The council committee report adds: “In all, the conditions relating to lighting are necessary and reasonable to ensure that any light pollution from the proposed development would not cause any harmful impacts in relation to neighbouring properties”.

The applicant is listed in a submitted planning application as ‘Sunderland City Council (Active Sunderland)’.

According to supporting documents linked to the plans, the Football Foundation provides funding towards the community-led spaces with an aim of “investing in areas with the greatest need”.

A design and access and planning statement submitted with the planning application lists the specific groups the Football Foundation are “prioritising” as part of the PlayZones scheme.

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This includes ”lower socio-economic groups, women and girls, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, and ethnically diverse communities”.

The design and access and planning statement adds: “The development aims to tackle inequalities in participation in sport and activity in the area.

“The proposal would be of considerable benefit to the local community groups, through the provision of a new facility in a previously derelict sporting area.

“The new facility has been designed with the aim of minimising impact to local residents / environment where possible, with drainage / fencing / floodlighting / access all designed with construction best practices in mind”.

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It is expected that the floodlighting system would have an “automatic cut-off switch” at night, as well as the development using an electronic access system to “provide bookable access”.

The council report states the proposed hours of use would be 8am until 9pm on “any given day”.

The final say on the planning application rests with members of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee, who will next meet on Monday, March 4, 2024.

The meeting is scheduled to take place at City Hall from 5.30pm and will be open to the public.

Information about the Playzones Programme can be found on the Football Foundation’s website at: footballfoundation.org.uk/playzones-programme