Northern Beaches Council considers sacrificing golf courses for sports fields
With an increasing population creating a growing demand for sports grounds, the recently created Northern Beaches Council in Sydney is canvassing redeveloping one or more of its publically-owned golf course into sports fields.
The Northern Beaches Council Sportsgrounds and Golf Courses Discussion Paper, now on exhibition, highlights that the Northern Beaches does not have enough fields and has less than half the sportsfields per head of population as a number of other comparable councils, but double the number of golf courses compared to the rest of Sydney.
Options being considered include converting existing grass fields to synthetic turf, buying land for new sportsfields and converting existing open space (golf course land) to sportsfields.
The Discussion Paper suggests that the “alternative is to do nothing, meaning a shortfall of supply, deteriorating playing surfaces and ultimately not enough fields for everyone to play.”
Northern Beaches Council Administrator, Dick Persson said the area was continuing to see a massive growth in active sports resulting in sports groups having to turn away players due to field shortages.
Persson “we have more than 50,000 people from 17 sports using our fields and participation rates have increased by more than 10% in the past three years, with more women, juniors and over 35’s participating in sports competitions.”
The Discussion Paper advises that in the past three years there has been a 50% increase in six-a-side football players with 1,000 players turned away in 2016, a 32% increase in touch rugby players with 20 teams turned away in 2016, an 8.5% increase in football (soccer) players, a 6% increase in cricket players and hockey has capped their intakes.
A Sportsground Needs Analysis undertaken for the Council identified that with only 116.5 hectares devoted to sportsfields on the Northern Beaches there’s currently a shortage of 24 hectares or around 24 sportsfields.
Although other councils across Sydney are also grappling with the same issues from increased participation, the Northern Beaches supplies less than half the sportsfields per capita than a number of comparable Councils.
Persson added “as a result of the current field shortage, 92 of the 122 fields are being overused and this will only get worse over time with the shortage predicted to reach 41 hectares in the next 15 years if nothing is done to fix the situation.
“With one in five children identified as overweight or obese, Council also has a responsibility to provide enough facilities and recreational spaces that will allow them to participate in active sport.
“While actions like new lighting and synthetic fields can alleviate some of the problems, which is a priority for Council, there’s still a huge shortfall if we don’t find a way to create more fields.
“The community has some choices to make; we can do nothing and accept the shortfall and even more people will miss out on participating in active sport, buy more land which is cost prohibitive or reallocate existing Council or Crown land like golf courses to sportsfields.”
The Golf Course Review section of the Discussion Paper highlighted that with 13 golf courses on the Northern Beaches there were double the amount per head compared to the rest of Sydney.
The Golf Course Review, undertaken by Golf Business Advisory Services (GBAS) pointed out that the seven public courses on the Northern Beaches covered 180 hectares of land and catered to 4,000 members, a decline of 16% over the last decade.
The Golf Course Review also stated that a reduction in the supply of golf courses may assist the market to achieve greater sustainability.
Persson concluded “I cannot stress enough that Council is listening and while the facts certainly lean towards the need for urgent action no decision has been made or will be until extensive community consultation has been undertaken.”
Potential Actions to increase sportsfields over a 15 year period include:
Action 1 - Better use of existing fields - ($270,000/hectare)
Action 2 - Convert more fields to synthetic - ($2.7 - $3 million/hectare)
Action 3 - Buy private land in land release areas - (funded by development)
Action 4 - Convert existing open space eg golf course land - ($1.4 - $1.8 million/hectare)
Action 5 - Buy private property using ratepayer funds - ($6.5 - $7 million+/hectare).
• 50,000 members - 17 Sports
• 116.5 hectare - 122 sportsfields (Approximately 1 hectare = I sportsfield)
• Per capita, the Northern Beaches supplies less sportsfields than comparable councils
• Shortfall of 24 ha in 2016 - based on field capacity supply and demand
• Shortfall of 41ha by 2031 if no action is taken - based on field capacity supply and demand
• 32% increase in touch football players over the last three years - 20 teams turned away in 2016
• 8.5% increase in Soccer players over the last three years
• 50% increase in five and six-a-side football players over the last three years - 1,000 players turned away in 2016
• 6% increase in cricket players over the last three years
• Hockey has capped their intake
• More women, juniors and over 35’s are wanting to participate in active sports competitions
• One in five children are identified as overweight or obese (24% boys and 23.1% girls, NSW Department of Health) Council has a responsibility to provide facilities that allow them to participate in active sport
• 7 public courses - 180 hectares
• 4,000 members a decrease of 16% over the last decade
• 6 private courses - 273 hectares with 6,000 members
• 6,000 members a decrease of 10% over the last decade
• Double the supply of golf courses per capita compared to Sydney-wide
o One 18 hole golf course per 49,867 across Sydney
o One 18 hole golf course per 23,151 people in the Northern Beaches Council Local Government Area
• Reduction in courses could improve sustainability
Submissions close on Sunday 7th May.
Click here to view the Sportsground Needs Analysis and Golf Course Review Discussion Paper.
Images: Warringah Golf Club (top), an artificial turf surface in use on the Northern Beaches (middle) and a youngster playing for the Collarory Cromer Strikers Football Club (below).
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