Part of the Streetspace mission is to create environments for every child and adult to get the recommended 60 minutes physical exercise per day, so we are delighted to see that Sport England also recognises the potential of such spaces in its recently published guidance titled “Designing For Physical Activity – Covered Outdoor Spaces”.
The report states that “covered outdoor spaces can provide a lower cost and convenient way to encourage and support a variety of community activities… such spaces can offer a more comfortable, welcoming and safe environment by providing essential protection from inclement weather and a degree of privacy and enclosure for a range of activities… The approach can be used to cover and partly or fully enclose physical activity spaces that would otherwise be exposed to the vagaries of the weather.” It also goes on to make the following points regarding physical activity and the design and use of covered outdoor spaces, such as our all-weather sports canopies.
The term ‘physical activity’ can cover a wide range of informal, casual and recreational pursuits that maintain or enhance fitness, health and overall wellbeing. The term ‘sport’ is usually associated with more formal training or competition. For all parts of the spectrum, easily accessed spaces that inspire and enable people of all ages to be physically active are a valuable community asset. Innovative approaches are advocated in the report that remove barriers to participation and are proportionate and appropriate to customer needs.
Lightweight covers enhance physical activity spaces within a local community setting, whether urban, suburban or rural. They can be multi-functional spaces (for example, multi-use games areas or MUGAs) that meet the needs of a range of community activities – not just sport.
A creative approach is described in the report that ranges from a simple roof cover with open sides giving protection from the sun and rain, to more enclosed solutions with side panels for wind protection and to retain balls, or to a full enclosure that creates a basic internal environment.
Covered outdoor spaces can be created within the grounds of local schools, sports clubs and clubhouses, village or community halls, and nearby parks. The structures can help to enhance the value and enjoyment of community places and generally promote more physical activity.
All facilities should be designed to be attractive, welcoming and have customer appeal. However, equally important as the space itself, research has highlighted that ‘convenience’ factors such as proximity to home or work, ease of booking and accessibility are also critical to encouraging participation.
Overall, we think that Sport England provides some very sound guidance in its report on the use of covered outdoor spaces. By following this guidance, we believe that the greatest number of users possible will be able to enjoy the many benefits of a covered MUGA or sports court. This will help a significant proportion of people to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, which in turn will have many further benefits to the individual and also to the country as a whole.