In difficult economic times playing fields are often increasingly at risk from development and so Fields in Trust welcomes the information provided by Sport England’s publication of the updated figures for 2009/10 showing planning applications and decisions relating to playing fields. Sport England plays a valuable role as statutory consultee and has helped to achieve significant improvements for outdoor sport provision and, through the Protecting Playing Fields Fund, will help many more over the next 3 years.
The current figures show 94.5% of applications during this period resulted in improved or safeguarded sports facilities. This is an impressive statistic but would benefit from clarification around one of the key issues: instances where outdoor spaces have been lost to the development of indoor facilities. Maintaining a balance between these two very different kinds of facilities is vital as outdoor facilities have the ability to be accessible to people from all backgrounds, being more often free at the point of access. They also provide many benefits associated with exposure to the great outdoors that cut across many areas of people’s lives.
Alison Moore-Gwyn, Chief Executive of Fields in Trust said: ‘Much of the information provided in these figures is very encouraging but we are facing more uncertain times. Firstly, it is too soon to see the impact of the directive issued by Department of Communities and Local Government in August 2011 encouraging local councils to review the £386 billion they hold in assets such as playing fields.
Secondly, the adoption of the National Planning Policy Statement next year omits facility replacement which has been crucial in achieving a better outdoor recreational deal through the planning process over the years.
We hope to continue to work in conjunction with Sport England to ensure playing fields are safeguarded for future generations.’<
Contact: Helen Griffiths at Fields in Trust on 07946 188371; 0207 427 2112; firstname.lastname@example.org