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Protection measures of playing fields “are working”

Playing fields are a key element of community sports provision (Image: Sport England)

Sport England has revealed that between April 2019 and March 2020, 94% (1,028 out of 1,093) of concluded planning applications affecting playing fields resulted in improved or protected sports provision. The high success figure has been credited to the current planning system, in which councils 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 will object to all applications unless the developer can prove it will improve or protect community sports provision.

Releasing its figures, Sport England said that in 34% of the cases where it originally objected to an application, further negotiations led to an overall improvement in sports provision. Additionally, of the 127 applications where the grassroots sports body maintained its objection, 62 were either withdrawn by the applicants or refused planning permission.

Sport England’s head of planning, Nick Evans, said: “The figures once again highlight Sport England’s commitment to protecting and enhancing playing fields which help people get active.

“Whether used by children for a kick around or by adults out for a walk or run, playing fields play a crucial role in helping people of all ages and abilities to get active, while also helping connect our communities and bring people together through sport.

“In October 2020, 62% of the population visited green and natural spaces for health and wellbeing.

“Playing fields are a vital part of those spaces, and our continued work to protect and enhance such spaces is more important than ever, especially in light of the ongoing pandemic and the challenges it poses to us all.”

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