New soft play facility proposed for Withdean Sports Complex

Improvements to facilities for families are proposed for Withdean Sports Complex next year, with the installation of an exciting new soft play area.

The council, working with Freedom Leisure, is looking to convert two of the centre’s six squash courts to create a much-needed all weather activity for children and families.

The proposal is part of a wider plan to develop Withdean into one of three major sport and leisure hubs in the city, outlined in the council’s Sports Facilities Investment Plan.

Exciting activity space

The proposed soft play facility would be built in an area currently occupied by two squash courts and an adjoining large, tiered seating area.

More efficient, energy saving heating, lighting and ventilation measures are also being considered to improve the remaining four squash courts.

As well as providing an exciting new activity space for the under 12s, the soft play facility would widen the family offer and community use of the building and help to support the centre during the current financial challenges generating much needed extra income.

The new facility would mainly be funded from Section 106 developer contributions.

Meeting local need

An extensive consultation, carried out as part of the Sports Facilities Investment Plan, identified a need for more facilities for young children within sports venues across the city.

The survey also found over provision of squash facilities across the city – especially as the demand for squash over the last 30 years has decreased significantly. In Brighton & Hove there are currently 24 courts across the city with another 21 within a 10-mile radius of the facility.

Current usage of the squash courts at Withdean Sports Complex is around 23% across the week, with most bookings in the late afternoon and evenings.

The new soft play facility could potentially be used by around 80 children per session, increasing use of the space during the traditionally quieter off-peak times and at weekends.

Discussions underway

All users of the centre are being encouraged to discuss the proposals with staff from the council and Freedom Leisure. A survey will also be undertaken by Freedom Leisure in the new year to assess customers' views.

The proposal has already been approved, in principle, by members of the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture and Policy and Resources committees.

Fun, social and challenging

Councillor Martin Osborne, co-chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee said: “We know, from our sports facilities consultation with residents and stakeholders, that there is a demand for indoor soft play facilities for children living in our city, and we are pleased that we have identified an opportunity to provide this at Withdean Sports Complex.

“Ensuring that children are physically active from an early age is really important in terms of healthy growth and development.

"Fun, social, challenging and informal play opportunities should be strongly encouraged and supported to help develop confidence and independence.

“With the proposed development of a new permanent covered padel court facility and four small sided all-weather sports pitches, we are pleased to be moving towards our ambition to create a sports and leisure hub in the North of Brighton and Hove, providing facilities and opportunities for residents of all ages and abilities.”

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