SHROPSHIRE Council has rejected claims that its new strategy on sport pitches fails to properly address issues of accessibility.

The authority’s cabinet met on Monday to sign off the new playing pitch and outdoor sports strategy (PPOSS), replacing the previous strategy which expired last year.

The document, which forms part of the evidence base for the ongoing local plan review, rates the quality of each sports ground in the county and sets out where demand is not being met.

But Shropshire Playing Fields Association has criticised the new strategy and said it did not meet national guidelines.

In a public question submitted to cabinet, association secretary David Kilby said: “Do the members and officers agree with Shropshire Playing Fields Association that this strategy document does not come close to adhering to Sport England guidelines with regard to the section that is meant to focus on ‘accessibility’, therefore would not in its present format stand up to scrutiny at a public inquiry as a sufficiently robust study?”

Councillor Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for leisure, said she did not agree with the association’s comments.

She said: “Throughout the whole process we have been working with Sport England and the seven national governing bodies of the sports referred to within the strategy, namely football, rugby, hockey, cricket, tennis, netball and bowls, and have followed Sport England’s playing pitch guidance at every stage.

“Each national governing body provided feedback and amendments to the document where necessary to give an accurate representation to protect and enhance sporting provision across Shropshire to meet current and future levels of demand.

“All the national governing bodies have now signed off on their respective sections and Sport England has signed off the whole strategy.”

Cllr Picton said consultants Knight Kavanagh & Page had factored in issues of access and availability into the quality score of each facility.

Cabinet members unanimously agreed to adopt the new strategy.

Summarising the report, Cllr Picton said: “In short, we have under-provision in the areas of football, cricket, rugby and hockey, some of which can be resolved by better utilisation of current facilities, but not all.

“In particular we lack 3G pitches, these are expensive commodities and I believe it’s in this area that we will need to be our most creative.

“Some facilities need investment and better maintenance.”

She added that only a “very small percentage” of facilities were in the council’s ownership, with most being owned by sports clubs, town and parish councils and other organisations, meaning a partnership approach was needed.

A report to cabinet by Mark Barrow, the council’s director of place, said: “In the absence of an up-to-date PPOSS it has been difficult to evidence the need and demand for new and improved outdoor sports pitches.

“This new strategy will enable Shropshire Council to practically support sports club, town and parish councils and other pitch owners when making funding applications.

“It will also support discussions with developers about new and improved outdoor sports pitches.”