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LABOUR ACCUSED OF SPORTS FIELD HYPOCRISY

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Schools are selling off land equivalent to a football pitch every week, despite government pledges to end the scand...
Schools are selling off land equivalent to a football pitch every week, despite government pledges to end the scandal of Britain's vanishing playing fields, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p11).

New figures compiled by the DfES have revealed that 120 pieces of land the size of a pitch have been sold to developers in the past two and a half years. The scale of the continuing sell-offs shocked campaigners - three years after legislation introduced stringent safeguards which were supposed to stem the loss of open spaces for school sports.

Government spokesmen have insisted in the past that most land sold since then by education authorities involved small portions of land which were the wrong size or shape for sports pitches. However,the latest figures refer only to grassed land suitable for a 2,000 sq m pitch, the FA recommended size for under-10s soccer.

Since 1999, the year after the government introduced legislation to curb sales, only two applications to sell pitches were refused by ministers. In a third of the sales since 1999, the field was either replaced with alternative land or was rented by the school which sold it in a leaseback arrangement.

The DfES is sufficiently concerned that last month it sent schools new guidance. A spokesman denied the 1998 legislation was not being enforced and said no school was given permission to sell unless it could show that it still had adequate sports facilities
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