Moves to make outdoors plan a reality following final approval

The final version of a strategy to make Sheffield the UK's premier city for lovers of the outdoors has been signed off.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 11:11 am
Visitors on Stanage Edge, which could form part of a new, designated outdoor recreation zone

Now the challenge is to make the recommendations it contains a reality over the next three years.

The themes of the council’s Outdoor City Economic Strategy remain the same as those contained in the plan’s draft version, published last October, but some changes have been made after a public consultation.

Ten key actions have been drawn up that the council wants to see happen.

One of these is an ambition to improve infrastructure to support the strategy’s aim – such as making sure there are good-quality footpaths and cycling routes connecting the city to the countryside, better signs and adequate facilities on public transport to carry bikes and outdoor ‘kit’.

A plan to make sure residents across the city have the opportunity, and the confidence, to access the outdoors, is also needed.

This week a new network of running routes – one of the largest in England – was announced with over £100,000 in funding from England Athletics.

The first phase will be completed next month, with 11 routes of varying difficulty ranging from 1km to 10km.

The first batch of routes will be marked out at Lowfields Park and General Cemetery; the Ponderosa, Weston Park and Crookes Valley Park; Bradfield Dam; Concord Park and Woolley Woods; Manor Fields; Graves Park, Millhouses Park and Ecclesall Woods.

The aim is to build more than 20 running routes in Sheffield, all starting from city parks or woodlands, by March 2017.

Meanwhile, overall there is the need to establish the Outdoor City as a brand, and to integrate existing events into a programme of activities to raise Sheffield’s profile.

Already progress has been made with the Outdoor City Weekender earlier this month, which pulled together events such as the Adventure Film Festival and the Edale Skyline Fell Race into a three-day festival.

Outdoor recreation zones will be created by choosing from a longlist including Ecclesall Woods, the Loxley Valley, Stanage and North Lees and Redmires.

Tapping into Sheffield’s academic community, and establishing the city as the ‘world leader’ in outdoor recreation research, is another of the strategy’s goals, as is boosting young people’s participation in activities.

The key actions will be delivered through a ‘joined-up approach’.

A new Sheffield Outdoor Joint Venture has been set up, comprising the council, the Forestry Commission, the Peak Park Authority, both universities and the National Trust, among others.

A council report said nearly 80 per cent of those who responded to the consultation agreed with the ‘vision, mission and values’ of the economic plan.

More than three-quarters also supported the idea of the Outdoor 100 – a group made up of clubs, businesses, community organisations and individuals with a passion for the outdoors.

The group will meet to review progress, identify new developments, and generate fresh ideas.

Some of those consulted felt there was too much of an emphasis on ‘adrenaline-fuelled’ activities, so more references to ‘quiet enjoyment’ have been added to the strategy, and concerns have been addressed that the economic focus of the strategy came at the expense of the environment. But the council said concentrating on the economic impact of the outdoors ‘complemented’ its work on environmental conservation, adding: “It should not be seen as being at the expense of environmental considerations.”

There are no specific spending commitments attached to the plan – but action will be taken to ‘identify and secure future funding and investment’ for outdoor spaces.

The plan was influenced by a report in 2014 written by Maxine Gregory, from Sheffield Hallam University, which found outdoor activity was worth £53 million a year to the city’s economy.