A level playing field?
Holders Lane is a 16 hectare sports ground, once transferred to Birmingham City Council by local benefactor Sir John Holder to provide local people with leisure facilities. These scenic playing fields could soon be owned and controlled by an ambitious University, whose aim is to grow its student numbers and strengthen its international reputation, by acquiring an additional site(s) to develop a new student campus with classrooms, staff-rooms and a student bar. University College Birmingham have made a multi-million £ bid to acquire the land, currently designated as Public Open Space, on which a new facility would be built to primarily meet the needs of a growing student body (currently 7,500 strong, of whom 1,100 are from overseas)
Standing in their way is Kingsbridge Community Sports; a local community based partnership which has been working with Birmingham City Council for 4 ½ years developing proposals to implement a sports and social hub specifically with the needs of the community in mind. Kingsbridge has spent £80,000 from grants and volunteer donations in kind in developing a Feasibility Study and Business Plan which proposes to create a community owned and community focussed sports hub, bringing local people from different backgrounds together around a common interest in sport and social activities. Roger Lynch, founder and Director of Kingsbridge believes passionately in community empowerment and he believes that his project is capable of delivering “a vibrant community sports & social hub” owned and operated by representatives of all sectors of the local community.
The site has been badly neglected over the past 10 years and Birmingham City Council acknowledges that “Significant levels of capital funding are needed to upgrade Birmingham’s parks and playing field facilities,” in order to bring Birmingham up to the required standard. Birmingham falls critically short of the current standards for provision of Sports Playing Fields as described in PPG17 Planning Guidelines. Hall Green is no exception here, having 0.33 hectare per 100 residents below the national standard. Kingsbridge would leverage £millions of grant and Trust money, to fund the transformation of the site into a ‘Tier A’ hub of community activities bringing people together to enjoy sport and leisure.
Big Society Model
Prime Minister David Cameron, who first heard about the Kingsbridge Project on a visit to Balsall Heath two years ago, has spoken much about “The Big Society” of which Kingsbridge is a model example. Birmingham Tory Councillor Timothy Huxtable confirmed that Kingsbridge “could be a great example of what “The Big Society” actually means in practice and given the right backing could become a flagship project at a national level- serving not only needs of the local community and local grass roots sports clubs in terms of vastly improved sports facilities, but doing so in a way that takes the burden of maintenance away from the Local Authority at a time when cut-backs are being earnestly pursued.”
Councillor Huxtable went on to say that he thought the Kingsbridge Project “has the potential to deliver the services on behalf of BCC, and to a higher standard than BCC has been previously able to do due to budget constraints; but will also deliver significant social outcomes for in terms of community engagement, at adult and youth level, and building social cohesion in a culturally diverse and often segregated society. Big Society and The Community Right to Buy are on the agenda the Coalition government is committed too, but what happened in practice at the local level?
Kingsbridge Project is a community based consortium, aiming to develop a vibrant and exciting new venue in South Birmingham. Our aim is to enhance the provision of sport and leisure activities for the benefit of a wide variety of local user groups, in an area where facilities are currently sorely lacking.
For more information visit http://www.kingsbridge-project.org/