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TOUGH GUIDANCE WILL PREVENT PLAYING FIELD SELL-OFFS - SCHOOLS MINISTER

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Tough new guidance to make it much harder for local authorities to ...
Tough new guidance to make it much harder for local authorities to

dispose of school playing fields has been announced by schools minister Charles Clarke.

Councils will now need to satisfy new rigorous criteria before

applying to the government to sell off playing fields.

Speaking at the launch of National School Grounds Week yesterday, Mr Clarke said:

'School playing fields are an invaluable resource and one to which

this government attaches the highest priority. As well as providing

an outdoor classroom, they add to local people's quality of life.

Their loss almost always causes widespread concern.

'We have already put a virtual halt to the sell-off of playing

fields. Last year we introduced legislation requiring local

authorities and schools to gain our permission before disposing of

playing fields. Before 1997 sports bodies said there were 40

disposals a month. Now we are receiving just a dozen applications a

month - and they are often leading to new sports facilities or result

from school closures.

'The new criteria will make local authorities and governing bodies

think twice before even proposing a playing field disposal. They must

now ensure:

- proceeds from the sale are ploughed back into sports provision or

education;

- remaining playing fields and sports facilities meet the needs of

local schools;

- remaining playing fields and sports facilities meet the needs of

the community;

the views of local people have been fully taken into account.

'This guidance will build on additional measures we have already

taken to protect the green space children need for team games. We

have introduced a requirement for minimum areas for team game playing

fields at special schools, bringing them into line with mainstream

schools.

'We brought in tighter planning controls in December last year which

apply to all local authority owned playing fields and other playing

fields used by educational institutions. Where Sport England object

to a planning application but the local planning authority

nevertheless intend to approve it, that authority must consult the

secretary of state for the environment, transport and the regions.

On top of that,£125m of lottery money has been made available

through the New Opportunities Fund for schools, councils, community

groups and others to bid for cash for the creation of new playing

fields.

Where disposals do occur, they often fund even better facilities such

as sports halls or all-weather, flood lit surfaces which enhance out

of school hours community use and encourage more school use in the

winter months.

We want all schools to offer each pupil two hours of physical

activity a week, taking together PE inside and outside the national

curriculum. We are ensuring that competitive team games remain

compulsory for all five to 14-year-olds. By offering pupils aged

14-16 increased flexibility to take part in other sports as well as

team games we want to encourage more young people to playsport

throughout their lives. There is no question of diminishing the

importance and value of competitive team games in all our schools.

To fulfil these requirements and expectations, schools need the right

facilities, including sports pitches. That is why we are delivering

on our manifesto pledge to protect playing fields and more. We will

review how effective our new policy has been in stemming the loss of

playing fields.

NOTES

1. Circular 3/99, The Protection of School Playing Fields, published

yesterday, sets out the criteria against which decisions normally will

be made on applications from local authorities and governing

bodies to dispose, or to change the use, of school playing fields.

2. National School Grounds Week is organised by Learning through Landscapes, the national charity working to help schools improve their grounds for the benefit of children and the wider community.

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