Skip to main content

Schools: Playing Fields

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 17 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many disposals of school playing fields of areas of land greater than 0.2 hectares were proposed in each of the last 10 years; (137499)

(2) how many general consents have been approved since the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel was set up; and under what conditions and circumstances general consents are approved for school playing fields;

(3) what average area in hectares of playing fields is owned by (a) all schools, (b) academies, (c) specialist schools and (d) specialist sports schools;

(4) how many of the planning applications for development of school playing fields were for improvements to the facilities in each of the last 10 years;

(5) how many (a) applications to develop and (b) developments there have been of school playing fields in the last 10 years; and what the area in hectares was of each;

(6) how many applications for development on school playing fields have been made in the last 10 years, broken down by region.

In the last 10 years the Department has received a total of 248 applications (109 of which in respect of closed schools) that involve the disposal of an area of land capable of forming a sports pitch of at least 0.2 hectares. Of the total received, 54 must be subsequently withdrawn, 16 are still under consideration, 176 have been approved and two were rejected. Of the approved applications, the sale proceeds were used to provide new or improved sports or educational facilities in every case.

Since the School Playing Field Advisory Panel was set up, in July 2001, the Department has approved 1,076 general consent applications. The effect of a general consent is that, in certain circumstances, the specific prior consent of the Secretary of State is not required to dispose of school playing field land. Such circumstances include the disposal of an area of land to provide a facility as part of an extended school, such as childcare, lifelong learning etc.; the disposal of the ancillary social and recreational areas that surround the buildings of a closed school; certain disposals where playing fields remain as playing fields (for example a transfer to the district council); the exchange of one school playing field for a replacement newly-created school playing field of at least equal size, resulting is no net loss of facility; the disposal of areas of playing field under 50 square metres; and a temporary loss of school playing field.

Data on school playing fields were supplied to the Department by local authorities in 2001 and 2003. However, because the data were incomplete, it is not possible to assess accurately the number and area of school playing fields.

Education Ministers only have power to regulate the disposal of school playing fields. They do not have any statutory powers to govern the future use or development of school playing fields. These are matters for local planning authorities to consider.