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Schools: Playing Fields

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which schools have sold land which had been used as playing fields in each year since 1997. (278033)

[holding answer 4 June 2009]: Before 1997 there were no figures collected about the loss of school playing fields but there was widespread public concern over the increasing loss of such facilities. Schools and local authorities could sell off playing fields without any restriction and use the sale proceeds however they wished.

Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 stopped the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. Schools and local authorities must obtain the Secretary of State’s approval before they can dispose of their land. The legislation sets out clear criteria for obtaining consent which includes ensuring that the land is genuinely surplus to schools and community groups. Also, any sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or educational facilities.

Since 1997 the Secretary of State has approved 203 applications that involve the sale of an area of land capable of forming a sports pitch of at least 0.2 hectares at schools in England. Of these 99 were at schools that had closed and the land was not needed by any other local school. Of the 104 applications at operating schools, the proceeds of sale will be used to improve the on-site sports facilities in 86 cases. In the other 18 applications the schools will benefit from improved educational facilities. A list of the schools concerned will be placed in the House Libraries.