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Sport England's playfield protection measures 'working in most cases'

By Tom Walker    23 Dec 2019
Sport England is a statutory consultee for all English local councils on any planning application that would affect or lead to the loss of a sports playing field / Sport England

New figures show that Sport England's playing field safeguarding measures, designed to protect sports provision in planning applications affecting playing fields, have been successful in '94 per cent of the cases'.

Sport England is a statutory consultee for all English local councils on any planning application that would affect or lead to the loss of a sports playing field.

It has adopted a stance where, unless a developer can prove their proposal will improve or protect sports provision at the site, it will automatically object to the plan.

The data, which covers the period between April 2017 and March 2018, shows that in 45 per cent of the cases where Sport England originally objected to an application, further negotiations led to an overall improvement in sports provision.

Of the 135 applications where the grassroots sports body maintained its objection, 61 were either withdrawn by the applicants or refused planning permission.

During the period there were 1,274 planning applications affecting playing fields – a 4.5 per cent increase on 2016-17.

"Many of our first experiences of sport and physical activity happen on playing fields – that’s why the places where we get active really matter," said Sport England head of planning, Nick Evans.

"Protecting these fields is at the heart of what we do – enabling more people in local communities to take part in grassroots sport and physical activity.

"Today’s figures show that we are continuing to protect critical spaces for people to be active. Our ultimate aim is to create a network of high-quality playing fields that we can all be proud of."

As of 18 December 2019, Sport England's Active Places data shows that across England there are 22,204 playing field sites, containing a total of 70,648 pitches.

Sport England  playing field 
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