PAD research

Fields in Trust Review of Standards for Outdoor Play, Sport and Recreation reaches new milestone

Fields in Trust’s review of recommendations on standards for outdoor play, sport and recreation within Planning and Design for Outdoor Sport and Play (formerly known as the Six Acre Standard) reaches a new milestone today with the publication of Phase 2 of the project undertaken by David Lock Associates.  The Phase 2 survey reports back on an online survey of the use of open space standards by local planning authorities in England and Wales, supplemented by further desktop research looking at relevant appeal decisions.
The research reveals that the majority of local planning authorities (81%) express quantity standards for open space as ‘hectares per 1,000 population’, in line with Fields in Trust’s original standards published over 50 years ago. The report confirms the ongoing relevance of benchmark standards within ‘Planning and Design for Outdoor Sport and Play’ alongside local assessments.  
Fields in Trust will be using the findings to inform a wider review and update to its recommendations which will be published later this year.
“We are pleased that this independent research has shown such a high percentage of local planning authorities use measures that are in line with our well established recommendations last published in ‘Planning and Design for Outdoor Sport and Play’. Fields in Trust looks forward to publishing our updated version later this year”, comment Fields in Trust. 
Other Findings
The majority of local planning authorities (81%) express quantity standards for open space as ‘hectares per 1,000 population’. This not only enables comparison across authorities in England and Wales to be easily made, but is clearly the most widely used and understood metric for open space standards. 
The median level of provision for Designated Playing Space was 0.25 hectares per 1,000 population. This corresponds to the Fields in Trust benchmark standard for Designated Playing Space.  The median accessibility standard was 100m for Local Areas for Play, 400m for Local Equipped Areas for Play, and 1,000m for Neighbourhood Equipped Areas for Play.  Accessibility standards were also often expressed in terms of walking time, rather than distance.
The median level of playing pitch provision was 1.21 hectares per 1,000 population which is comparable with the Fields in Trust recommended benchmark standard.  The median accessibility standard from respondents was 1,200m from dwellings, which matches the Fields in Trust benchmark.
25% of respondents were able to provide data about their current standards for the provision for other outdoor sports, expressed as hectares per 1,000 population. Other outdoor sports (excluding pitches) included provision of bowling greens, tennis courts, athletic tracks and Gaelic football.  
13% of respondents were able to provide data about their current provision for other outdoor provision, expressed as hectares per 1,000 population. Other outdoor provision comprised provision of natural and semi-natural green space, MUGA’s, and wheeled sport (BMX track or Skate Park). 
22% of the total number of respondents were able to provide data about parks and amenity green space as an overall standard, expressed as hectares per 1,000 population. For parks and amenity green space, where provided as an overall standard, the median level of provision sought was 1.0 hectare per 1,000 population. 
42% of respondents were able to provide data about other standards for open space applied within their local authority area. 
59% of English and Welsh authorities identified that they had specific requirements regarding the quality of new open space provision. Of those respondents who specified their quality requirements, 18% apply a local assessment of quality (the most commonly used quality assessment by respondents). 10% apply the Green Flag standard to assess the quality of parks. 8% of respondents apply the Fields in Trust standards. 2% of authorities apply the Sport England standards in assessing the quality of sports pitches.
In relation to local standards for open space being met in planning decision-taking, and based on a scoring system with 1 being ‘seldom’ and 10 being ‘always’, 64% indicated a score between 7 and 10.  
A review of appeal decisions relating to the disposal and reuse of open space, the replacement of open space or new provision demonstrated that open space standards (including Fields in Trust benchmark standards) were relevant, but that decisions were specific to the particular circumstances and material considerations of each case.  
Notes to editors:
- Fields in Trust is the operating name of the National Playing Fields Association
- Fields in Trust is a national charity founded in 1925 to improve the protection, provision and quality of outdoor recreational spaces for all communities in the UK
- HM The Queen has been Patron of Fields in Trust for 60 years; HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was President for 64 years and succeeded by HRH The Duke of Cambridge in 2013.