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Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Sports field safeguards 'working'

By Matt Slater

The FA is backing plans to protect mini-pitches and 11-a-side facilities
The FA backs plans to protect mini- and 11-a-side pitches from developers

The Government is claiming greater success in its efforts to protect playing fields from developers.

The latest figures show 97.5% of planning applications resulted in improved or protected sports provision.

The number of applications that had a negative impact fell from 40 in 2005/6 to 29 in 2006/7, 2.5% of the total.

And the news should be even better next year as the safeguards in place have been widened to include smaller playing spaces and mini-pitches.

"These figures are proof that the tough policies we put in place are working," said sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

"Our initiative to ensure that smaller, junior pitches are also protected from development will help make a reality of our ambition to increase sport participation in the run-up to London 2012 and leave a lasting legacy for the country."

In future, all proposed developments that could affect or lead to the loss of a playing field bigger than 0.2 hectares will now be looked at by Sport England, the government agency that distributes public funds to community and grassroots sport.

There is a need to protect pitches to grow and sustain the game

FA chairman Lord Triesman
Sport England objects to all applications unless the developer, including local councils, can prove it will improve or protect sports provision.

Under the old system, however, Sport England could only assess applications for playing fields larger than 0.4 hectares, which meant many junior pitches, typically found at primary schools, slipped through the net.

"Extending the protection we offer will ensure more people begin a lifelong sporting habit at an early age," said Sport England's chief executive Jennie Price.

As well as the extension of planning protection to junior pitches, Sport England also announced agreements with the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union to work together to safeguard sports provision at the local level.

Lord Triesman, the FA's chairman, said: "We are aware that nearly four out of five matches each week are played on public-sector land and therefore there is a need to protect pitches to grow and sustain the game."

Tighter planning safeguards were put in place in 2001 after a decade which saw unchecked development gobble up playing fields at an alarming rate.

Figures published by the National Playing Fields Association in 2005 revealed that England had lost 45% of the playing fields it had in 1992.

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see also
'Loophole risk' to playing fields
13 Dec 07 |  Education
Sports pitch decline not stopping
14 Oct 07 |  Scotland
New rules on playing field sales
27 Aug 04 |  UK Politics

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