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School Playing Fields

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

Before October 1998 there were no checks in the system to prevent the sale of school playing fields. Local authorities could sell school playing fields and use the proceeds for whatever purpose they saw fit.

Since 1998, under section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, all local authorities and maintained schools in England have needed the consent of the Secretary of State before they can dispose of a school playing field or any part of a school playing field.

Published guidance sets out the criteria for giving consent and makes it clear that a disposal will only be allowed if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools continue to be met. Community usage of school playing fields is considered in decisions and any sale proceeds must be re-invested in outdoor sports facilities where possible, or, if not, in indoor sport or education facilities.

In addition, since July 2001 all applications to dispose of school playing fields have been scrutinised by an independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel. The Panel comprises representatives from Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association), the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Learning through Landscapes, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Local Government Association.

The Panel advises the Secretary of State on the extent to which applications meet the published criteria for giving consent. The Panel brings a rigorous independent scrutiny to the assessment process.

In November 2004 the rules governing the sale of school playing fields were tightened so that the sale of a playing field is an absolute last resort with local authorities having to demonstrate that they have exhausted all other sources of funding. Sale proceeds must be used to improve outdoor sports facilities where possible and new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years.

This Government have not committed itself to end the sale of surplus school playing fields in any circumstances. What we did commit to end was the previous position of putting local authorities in a position where they had to sell those fields simply to pay for essential repairs. Our record levels of capital investment in schools - from under £700 million in 1996-97 to over £8 billion by 2011 - have also helped bring that situation to an end. 1,100 completely newly rebuilt schools have already been built - with brand new sports facilities and outdoor play areas. Another 2,450 schools have made massive improvements to sports provision, with newly built sports halls, all- weather pitches, gyms, playgrounds or changing rooms.

This Government legislated to ensure that school playing fields are sold only where they are genuinely surplus to local needs, including those of neighbouring schools. This Government have ensured that the proceeds of sales are invested mainly in providing new sports facilities, including new grassed pitches, all-weather pitches and sports halls. Where no sports improvements are needed the money from sales must be used to improve educational facilities.

The attached table shows details of the 19 applications which were approved on this basis in 2007.

Approved Applications to Sell an Area of Land Capable of Being Used as a Small Sports Pitch of 2,000m2 in 2007

School

Local Authority

Approved

Details

Beanfield Community College

Northamptonshire

17 May

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at other schools.

All–weather hockey and tennis pitch.

Floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games court.

Four-court sports hall.

Blackdale Middle School

Norfolk

2 November

Closed school—proceeds used to improve outdoor sports at four other schools.

Two multi-use games courts.

One new grass pitch.

One new playing field.

One tennis court.

New outdoor cricket facilities.

Cliftonville Middle School

Northamptonshire

8 May

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at eight other local schools.

New all-weather, multi-use games courts.

New grass pitches.

Upgrade gymnasium facilities.

Deedmore School

Coventry

20 April

Closed school—proceeds spent on new school.

New hydrotherapy pool.

New outdoor classrooms.

New sensory garden.

New all-weather pitch.

Eastwood Comprehensive

Nottinghamshire

24 May

Sale of part of playing field at closed lower site—proceeds used to improve sports provision on upper site and other local schools.

Improved outdoor facilities and indoor sports facilities at upper school site.

New sports pitch.

Green Lanes Primary

Solihull

12 March

Closed school—proceeds spent on sports at other schools.

Grading and levelling of grass pitches.

Improved grassed pitch.

New hard play area.

New sports hall.

Harefield Primary

Southampton

13 December

Surplus playing field sold to fund sports hall.

New sports hall.

New hard games court.

Hayesfield School and Technology College

Bath and NE Somerset

12 March

Off-site playing field sold to fund new on-site sports provision.

New sports Hall.

New dance Studio.

New all-weather pitch.

New running track.

New netball and tennis court.

Highbury Primary

Wiltshire

16 May

New build—surplus playing fields sold to fund new sports facilities.

New hard play area.

New games court.

New sports hall.

Leigh C of E Primary

Wiltshire

5 April

Closed school—proceeds used to improve sports at other schools.

New hard play area.

New sports hall.

Meadway School

Reading

4 April

Closed school—proceeds used for sports facilities at new SEN school.

New grass pitch.

New game court.

New outdoor play space.

New sports hall.

Therapy and hydrotherapy pool.

Pembroke Primary School

Wiltshire

8 May

First school site sold—proceeds used to fund sports facilities at new primary schools.

New external play area.

Improved sports hall.

New reception play ground.

Refurbished playground.

New netball court.

New sports hall.

Portland School

Nottinghamshire

8 January

Surplus playing field sold to fund new on-site sports facilities.

New all-weather pitch.

New multi-use games court.

Improved running track.

New sports hall.

Improved grassed pitches.

Senacre Technology College

Kent

4 September

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports facilities at two new academies.

New multi-use games court.

Improved grassed sports pitch.

Two new gymnasiums.

Sir Bernard Lovell

South Gloucestershire

30 January

Sale of part of detached playing field to fund new on-site sports facilities.

Two improved grass pitches.

Two floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games courts. Two six-court sports halls.

St. Michaels C of E Controlled School

Wiltshire

8 May

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports and education at other schools.

New hard games court.

New soft games area.

Two classroom extensions.

St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary

Surrey

17 May

Sale of part of detached playing field to fund on-site sports facilities.

New all-weather games court.

Improved grassed pitches.

Refurbishment of two sports halls.

Tyning Hengrove Junior School

Bristol

8 May

Closed school—proceeds used to fund sports at other schools.

Purchase new school playing fields.

All-weather, multi-use games court.

New sports hall.

Warblington School

Hampshire

20 November

Sale of surplus playing field to fund new sports facilities.

Floodlit, all-weather, multi-use games court. Refurbished school tennis court.

New sports hall.