Fields in Trust welcomes the proposals outlined in the forthcoming Private Members Bill Parks and Playing Fields in Public Ownership (Protection from Sale) to be presented in Parliament by Tom Pursglove MP. We agree that any park or playing field land in public ownership should not be sold or disposed of without public consultation – or a local referendum – in advance of disposal. We believe that local communities are best placed to determine individual cases based on local needs.
Our recent survey identified a clear public perception that parks and recreation grounds are at risk, with 16% of respondents reporting that local green space was, or had been under threat of development. The survey revealed that nearly all (95%) agree that parks and play areas should be protected from development and 82% feel so strongly that they would be motivated to campaign against the loss of a park to redevelopment. Two thirds (69%) state that the loss of parks would be detrimental to children's development and half of respondents admitted that they would be less active if their local green space was built on.
The recently published Government strategy on Sport - Sporting Future - aims to increase the number of children getting active earlier and developing habits that will last a lifetime. Ambitions which risk being undermined if the playing fields and parks where these activities take place are not protected. Fields in Trust recognise the role of play as a precursor to all subsequent physical activity. Children learn physical literacy through play long before they participate in any structured sporting activity and yet there is no mandatory provision for play spaces to start them on the life long journey to sustained physical activity - and no mechanism for communities to protect fields and parks under threat.
The drive to increase participation rates and encourage those who do not take part in sport and physical activity to get involved is something we particularly welcome - our "Have A Field Day" community engagement programme during 2015 saw around 70,000 people participating in 362 community-run events in parks, playing fields and recreation grounds across the UK. We are eager to see the implementation of the new strategy for an active nation, but are concerned at the reduction in outdoor space available in which to deliver it.
Image with thanks to UK Parliament.