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GOVT SETS OUT HOW IT WILL SAVE SCHOOL PLAYING FIELDS

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The government has set out how it will fulfil and extend its pledge to stop the sale of playing fields which school...
The government has set out how it will fulfil and extend its pledge to stop the sale of playing fields which schools and communities need.

The initiatives will be taken forward in three key measures in a

co-ordinated approach by the department of education and employment,

the department of environment, transport and the regions and the

department of culture, media and sport.

These are:

- tightening planning controls in respect of development on all local authority-owned playing fields where the English Sports Council advises against the proposals

- introducing new legislation to require all maintained schools to see consent for the sale of playing fields

- sending a clear message to all local education authorities to discourage them from selling off land before these measures become law

Deputy prime minister John Prescott said:

'Playing fields are vital for the quality of life in our

communities. Once developed they are lost forever. In some cases the

Sports Council and local planning authorities disagree on whether

developing a local authority-owned playing field would result in a

local shortage. In these cases I propose to ask local planning

authorities to refer the matter to me to decide whether to leave it

to them or whether I should take the decision. I will shortly be

writing to consult them on my proposal.'

Education and employment secretary David Blunkett said:

'All school pupils deserve access to proper sports facilities.

Today we are delivering on that commitment. The new clause which we

are introducing to the School Standards and Framework Bill will give

me new power to determine the sale of playing fields proposed by

maintained schools.

'With this power I will ensure that those playing fields

which schools and their local communities need are not sold in

future.'

Secretary of state for culture, media and sport Chris Smith

said:

'I am delighted that we have been able to fulfil another

manifesto commitment. Playing fields provide a vital recreational

resource for schools and local communities. Too many have been lost

in recent years and grass roots sports have suffered as a result.

These measures will provide a rigorous test for every application to

sell or redevelop a playing field and give ministers an opportunity

to intervene in cases where the interests of school children and

local people are not being fully considered.'

NOTES

1. The secretary of state for the environment, transport and the

regions will shortly be writing to all local planning authorities

today to inform them of the proposed arrangements for notifying him

of any proposal to develop a playing field owned by the local

authority, or the local education authority if different, where the

Sports Council has objected on the grounds that there is, or would be

as a result of its development, a deficiency of playing field

provision in that area, but where the local planning authority

propose to allow the development.

2. The secretary of state has powers under the Planning Acts to

call-in cases. His policy is to use these powers sparingly and

selectively. This will continue to be the case.

3. The effect of the proposed arrangements would be that the local

planning authority, before granting planning permission will

need to notify the secretary of state, who will then have to

decide within 21 days whether he is content for the local planning

authority to make the decision or whether he wishes to call in

the case for his own determination.

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