Published: January 2015
Author(s): Gary Higgs, Mitch Langford, Paul Norman

Previous studies concerned with investigating the relationship between levels of physical activity and aspects of the built environment have often led to inconsistent and mixed findings concerning associations between the availability of recreational or sport facilities and area socio-economic status. Further complications may arise when analysis is conducted separately for access to either publicly available or private facilities or where alternative methodological approaches to measuring accessibility are adopted. This paper provides a review of such research before exploring the potential use of methods for examining variations in accessibility based on enhanced floating catchment area (FCA) models which are increasingly being advocated in medical geography applications. Using bespoke tools developed within a commercial GIS package, which are being made publicly available by the authors, and a national database of sport facilities, variations in accessibility are investigated in relation to a widely used measure of deprivation in the UK. Findings from this analysis suggest that whilst those living in deprived areas of Wales have greater potential access to publicly available sporting opportunities, associations with privately owned facilities are reversed for some distance thresholds and at different spatial scales. The paper concludes by drawing attention to the implications of such findings given current financial pressures on local government and other sport and leisure providers and highlights how spatial analytical techniques can be used to monitor such trends.