New procedures will ensure that the secretary of state for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is made aware of cases which might result in the development of playing fields which are owned by local authorities or have been used by schools or other educational institutions. This will enable him to intervene before the local planning authority grants planning permission for the development. The new procedures come into effect from 23 December 1998.
Responding to a question from Bob Blizzard MP (Waveney), planning minister Richard Caborn said:
'We have published The Town and Country Planning (Playing Fields) (England) Direction 1998 which is one of the key measures in a co-ordinated approach between my Department, the Department for Education and Employment, and the Department of Culture Media and Sport to stop the loss of playing fields. The direction requires local planning authorities to notify my Department of planning applications where they wish to grant planning permission, but where the English Sports Council advises against the development, because there is, or the development would result in, a deficiency in playing field provision for schools or the wider community in the area.
The new direction is an important part of cross-departmental initiatives to meet the government's pledge to stop the sale of school playing fields. The Department for Education and Employment have already introduced a clause in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 which gives the secretary of state for education new powers to determine the sale or change of use of playing fields proposed by maintained schools.
The direction applies to all local planning authorities in England. It comes into effect where the English Sports Council, which is already a statutory consultee for planning applications involving development of a playing field, object to a proposed development - either because of a deficiency in such facilities or because adequate alternative provision would not be made - but despite this objection the authority wants to grant planning permission.