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Protection of Playing Fields

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008

The Petition of Jo Grey, concerned Canvey Island residents, and others,

Declares that Castle Point Council is wrong to plan to build over 100 houses on Castle View School Playing field, that this is insensitive, inappropriate and will result in more homes built on a green belt, high flood risk site; believes that there is sufficient previously developed, brown land to build any necessary additional homes without selling off valuable school playing fields for that purpose, and that councillors should stand up for residents' interests and consider the impact of their plans on road congestion and safety for all Island residents, and reject the Castle Point Borough Council Core Strategy.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to press Castle Point Borough Councillors to speak out and act and vote against the plan to sell off a Canvey Island school playing field for yet more building.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 07 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 248.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The Government understands the residents concerns about the future of playing field space, but it is the Government's general approach not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities unless it is necessary to do so. Parliament has entrusted planning with authority for day-to-day planning control in their areas as they are normally best placed to make decisions relating to their areas and it is right that, in general, they should be free to carry out their duties responsibly, with the minimum of interference.

I should also mention that Government is concerned about the continuing loss of playing fields to development, especially where their loss would result in a shortage of playing fields in a local area, whether for schools or for the wider community. Government seeks to ensure that communities retain an adequate supply of playing fields to meet both their current and longer-term needs, in terms of quantity, quality and accessibility. Sport England is a statutory consultee for planning applications involving development which would have a detrimental effect on the provision of playing fields. Sport England is consulted on all applications for development which involve playing fields which are, or were in the last five years, in use.

I understand from Castle Point Borough Council that no planning application has yet been made to them in respect of this proposal. When an application has been made, the Council will be required to publicise it in order that the public and other interested parties may make known their views. Before reaching their decision, the Council must take into account: the provisions of the development plan for the area; any relevant views expressed by neighbouring occupiers, local residents and other third parties; and any other relevant material considerations which fairly and reasonably relate to the application concerned. They should also be guided by the policies and advice set out in the Department's Planning Policy Guidance Notes, Statements (PPGs and PPSs) and planning circulars.

I understand through discussions with the Council that the site referred to in the Petition is identified within their Core Spatial Strategy for housing purposes. The Council has conducted several consultation exercises in relation to ongoing work that has/is being conducted in relation to this document. The most recent consultation exercise was in respect of the Core Strategy Further Preferred Options Report which concluded on 15 August 2008. There have also been a number of other consultations carried out since February 2006. Therefore, members of the public still have a chance to raise their objections to the proposals.

In the meantime the Secretary of State suggests that the residents raise their concerns directly with Castle Point Borough Council.