Continued playing field loss lamented

Sector berates Government for post-Olympic Games talk of sporting legacy while sanctioning sale of school playing fields.

Green-space leaders have criticised the Government for preaching about a sporting legacy from the Olympics while allowing the wide-scale sale of school playing fields.

They spoke out after the Department for Education released details of 21 school pitches sold since the coalition came to power.

It follows comments by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt that the Olympics were inspiring millions of young people. But the Government has abolished the need for at least two hours of school sport a week and continues to sell off pitches.

Lost in the past two years were pitches at Beaver Green School in Kent, High View School, Plymouth, Kingsbury School, Brent, and Lord Lawson of Beamish School, Gateshead. Some of the land was sold for development, others to build new pavilions.

Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "The Government says the Olympics are important as a sporting legacy while we will allow playing fields to be sold off. The other problem is local planning officers allowing permission, giving value to the land."

He suggested that friends groups could take over school sports pitches and added that house values near sports fields are even higher than homes near parks because pitches lay mostly empty.

Bury Council parks and countryside manager and former chair of GreenSpace North West Mike Bent said: "It's important for school fields to be included in local authority green-space strategies to ensure that any loss is replaced like for like."

Fields in Trust chief executive Alison Moore-Gwyn said: "Funding is important as is time in the school curriculum for sports. But safeguarding the spaces children can discover and hone their talent is absolutely vital. The sale of school playing fields jeopardises Britain's longer-term sporting success."

But a Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We will only agree to the sale of school playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools can continue to be met.

"Proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities and any new sports facilities must be sustainable for 10 years. All sites disposed of under this Government have been because the school has closed, the sites became surplus to needs or the proceeds were needed to modernise sports provision."


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