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95% of planning applications involving playing fields result in protection or improvement of facilities

Sport England's in interventions in planning processes protected 1,073 playing fields in the year to March 2022 (Image: Sport England)

New figures show that 95% of concluded planning applications that involved playing fields – to which Sport England objected due to its role as a statutory consultee – resulted in the protection or improvement of facilities.

The data, published by Sport England this month (December 2023), reveals that in the period from April 2021 to March 2022, the agency’s interventions in planning processes protected 1,073 playing fields in England.

As part of planning processes, councils and local authorities are required to refer cases to Sport England when any proposed development would affect or lead to the loss of a sports playing field. Sport England objects to all applications unless the developer can prove it will improve or protect community sports provision.

In 1,073 out of the 1,120 concluded planning applications affecting playing fields, Sport England managed to either improve or safeguard sports provision.

Of the 121 applications where it maintained its objection, 74 (61%) were either withdrawn by the applicants or refused planning permission.

In 59% of the cases where Sport England originally objected to an application, further negotiations led to an overall improvement in sports provision.

Sport England’s head of planning, Nick Evans, said: “The figures released today once again highlight Sport England’s firm commitment to protecting and enhancing playing fields across England.

“Playing fields are critical for supporting local communities to take part in sport and physical activity, allowing them to reap the benefits of movement for their physical and mental health.

“They continue to play an integral part in our work supporting government to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030.”

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