norfolk park playing field Improvements

Norfolk Heritage Park Playing Field Improvements

Project cost: £260,000

Funding:  Football Foundation, Planning Gain and All Saints Catholic High School

I enjoyed every minute working on this project. There was a strong sense of satisfaction from turning a mostly unusable playing field into the best public – open access – fields in the country. At one point it was easily better than the new Wembley surface.  It is also rare to be able to work to this level of quality on a public playing field.

A wide range of operations was carried out, including full pipe drainage system with gravel bands and sand slits, spectator perimeter fence, ball-stop fencing behind the goals, non-turf cricket wicket,  and, uniquely, a pop-up sprinkler – irrigation – system. A major bonus, as a direct result of, but outside of the scope of this project, was traffic calming measures on the road between the school and the park.

Norfolk Heritage Park flows down a valley towards the edge of the city of Sheffield. During the slum clearance programme in the 60’s the valley bottom was filled with rubble and served as a landfill site. Later, the landfill was covered and landscaped into a playing field.  Over the years, the playing field had gradually deteriorated into a boggy mess; the drains had failed and the surface had collapsed in many places and become hazardous. It was not even popular as a dog toilet.

Normally, small pitch areas such as this are not considered a priority for improvement, as multi pitch sites are a more sensible proposition for investment. However, due to the topography of this area, there is an identified shortage of playing fields, and this site was considered a valuable asset.  This case was strengthened when All Saints underwent a major redevelopment under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which took up most of their playing fields.  The original idea was to make use of the small artificial pitches provided by Goals Soccer Centre, but this didn’t quite work out as planned, and they needed access to the pitches across the road, in the park.

The partnership with All Saints added significant value to the undertaking.  As well as providing valuable playing field space for pupils, All Saints contributed £40,000 towards the improvements, and £12,000 per year towards maintenance costs. And, crucially, in terms of satisfying Football Foundation minimum requirements standards, All Saints have allowed Norfolk Park Juniors FC to use their changing facilities and car park, which are located in the nearby sports hall. All in all, a good partnership.