Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by National Playing Fields Association (PPG 12(a))


  As a final follow-up to our evidence to the Sub-Committee, I am writing to affirm the NPFA's position on a number of issues.

  1.  There needs to be clear, proper and common definitions and typology of open spaces for planning purposes.

  2.  The DTLR has been offered assistance by the NPFA, and no doubt other bodies as well, but refused it to date. Their approach has not been inclusive. The draft has suffered because of this. A notable example is the imbalance between consideration of open space issues in the broadest sense and specific sporting issues.

  3.  The existing PPG 17 gives status and weight to the NPFA's Six Acre Standard. The draft revision diminishes these attributes significantly. In a recent sample survey of local plans, 33 out of 42 (79 per cent) of planning authorities make reference to the Six Acre Standard. If the draft is left unchanged then the DTLR will have undermined the Six Acre Standard, failed to provide any better alternative approach and destabilised the planning policies of up to 80 per cent of planning authorities. The Guidance needs to name the NPFA's standard, give clear reference to it in the bibliography and provide it as an annex as illustrative material. The same may apply also to other useful national standards, capable of local adaption. A clear "health" warning needs to be given to planning authorities not to use national standards in a slavish or unthinking manner.

  4.  The Guidance should highlight the importance of planning for sport, open space and recreation and the need to provide sufficient resources for local research and needs assessment. It is no less important than planning for transport, housing, employment or any other arena.

  5.  Paragraph 36 causes concern. It is likely to give legitimacy to developers who might put forward proposals to move existing sports clubs out of our towns and cities and into the urban fringe or the green belt. This has previously been experienced, notably in Bristol in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It is regrettable that pressure might be brought to bear for relocation, thus reducing the availability of local facilities. When relocation outwards occurs, it is those who are less mobile who suffer—eg children, the elderly, parents and carers with young children, the unwaged and those without private transport.

  6.  On the question of "joined up" government, a number of observations are made:

    —  planners and asset managers in local government must work together more effectively;

    —  the DTLR and Sport England use a different definition of a playing field/pitch to the DfES. This confuses the public. It also means that on a statistical basis like cannot be compared with like. It is a nonsense that different definitions are used;

    —  in "A Sporting Future for All", the formation of a Playing Fields Monitoring Group was promised. Comprising representatives of the DCMS, the DfES and the DTLR, together with representatives of the NPFA, Sport England and the Central Council of Physical Recreation, this group first met in July 2000 and has met five times altogether. Its job was defined as publishing "monthly figures on playing field disposals so that progress can be accurately charted". Nothing has yet been published, nearly 18 months after its formation. The rate of progress is clearly not good enough and the NPFA has made its concerns known to the Group and the Minister for Sport.

November 2001

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