Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by The Central Council of Physical Recreation (PPG 11)


  1.1  The CCPR is the umbrella organisation for 256 national governing and representative bodies of sport and recreation.

  1.2  The draft PPG 17 is a matter of considerable importance to the membership and the decision to hold an inquiry into the draft is warmly welcomed. The consensus within sport and recreation is that there is significant scope for improvement in the draft planning note.

  1.3  The increased emphasis on the national governing bodies of sport and recreation within the draft is positive. This will help to ensure that national plans for specific sports are supported by the planning process. The role of governing bodies in setting national standards is well documented. Governing bodies can also support voluntary clubs in their dealings with local planning authorities.


  2.1  Sport is increasingly recognised as an important tool for government policy as well as being important in its own right. This is demonstrated by the Prime Minister's speech to our Olympic and Paralympic medal winners on 11 January 2001 when he said

    "I see sport as a pro-education policy; a pro-health policy; an anti-crime and anti-drugs policy."

  2.2  There is a need for more evidence of all Government Departments sharing the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for sport and recreation.

  2.3  The Planning Minister, Nick Raynsford MP, told the House on 13 January 1999 that

    "A draft revised PPG [17] will be issued for consultation later this year."

  2.4  Having studied the consultation document, it is hard to understand the significant delays in its publication.


  3.1  It would have helped if the former DETR had chosen to involve the CCPR in a pre-consultation on the draft planning guidance. This would have ensured that some of the omissions within the Guidance were recognised before the public consultation.

  3.2  This lack of consultation with the representative body for sport and recreation was also evident in the refusal of officials to meet with the governing bodies to assist with any redraft. We understand that Sport England's response has further underlined some of the CCPR's concerns.

  3.3  Policy makers should recognise that volunteers contribute more to sport in this country than local authorities, the National Lottery and the Exchequer combined[14]. The Guidance should look to support the voluntary sports club sector, which is the backbone of British sport.


  4.1  The split in responsibilities at the former DETR between DEFRA and DTLR could create difficulties for sport and recreation. For example, the lead on planning rests with DTLR but environmental issues now rest with DEFRA. The CCPR is unsure which Department would have precedence on environmental planning and designation issues.

  4.2  It is unclear from the remit of the inquiry whether the Urban Affairs Sub-committee wishes to consider PPG 17 in its entirety or rather those sections relevant to urban sport. There is an increasing concern amongst our membership that there is an imbalance between conservationism and recreation in the countryside.

  4.3  There is a danger that the issues for sport gaining access to environmentally sensitive areas are becoming dominated by ideologies rather than agreements. The planning guidance should reflect the policy that banning access for specific sport and recreation activities must only be a last resort, after voluntary schemes and then management byelaws have been tried and shown not to work.


  5.1  The CCPR member organisations have reported problems with planning on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since the introduction of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

  5.2  It is understood that an objection by English Nature to a planning application on a SSSI means that the application is rejected. It is reported that English Nature do not have to provide reasons for an objection and that this is compounded by the lack of a right of appeal. Such a process would appear to be contrary to natural justice and could fall foul of the right to a fair hearing under the Human Rights Act.


  6.1  As outlined in the CCPR response to the draft PPG, the guidance for air sports, water sports and countryside recreations needs to be significantly improved.

  6.2  Local Planning Authorities need to be encouraged to give a greater priority to sport within Local and Unitary Development Plans. This should support sport's role as a tool for promoting health, education and social inclusion whilst reducing crime.


  7.1  A Sporting Future for All, the Government's plan for sport, was published in March 2001. This welcome strategy was endorsed by the School's Minister, the Deputy Home Secretary and the Minister for Public Health. It is disappointing that the former DETR was unable to support the strategy.

  7.2  The Government Sports Strategy places emphasis on the role of clubs in delivering local sport and recreation opportunities. These clubs are often run on shoestring budgets by volunteers. Government policy is to encourage these clubs to modernise and to develop their facilities for the whole community including active youth sections. This will often require expanding the club and therefore having to seek planning permission.

  7.3  It is essential that the final PPG 17 gives sufficient comfort to clubs wishing to expand their facilities, in line with the Government sports strategy.


  8.1  Last autumn, the Prime Minister announced the Government's intention to allocate £750 million of New Opportunities Fund lottery money to an unprecedented investment in school-community sports facilities. Such an investment has the potential to start a step change in school sport provision.

  8.2  The draft PPG 17 would have been strengthened by specific reference to encouraging the building of community sports facilities at schools. Without support from the planning system, this flagship Government policy may be undermined and further delayed.


  9.1  The CCPR is strongly of the opinion that the regulatory framework underpinning the guidance note is not sufficient to support any desire to protect and improve playing fields, let alone urban green spaces.

  9.2  The 1996 Playing Field Legislation gave Sport England Statutory Consultee status on planning applications affecting playing fields. This urgently needs updating to bring the new FA mini-soccer pitches within its protection. Currently, playing fields under one acre are not protected.

  9.3  There needs to be a new statutory requirement for local authorities to inform Sport England of the outcome of a planning application on playing fields. This is a serious shortcoming in the legislation. Without such a requirement, it is hard to see how any Doomsday Book of facilities, announced by the DCMS Secretary of State on 15 August 2001, could be kept up to date.

  9.4  A 34 per cent increase in the number of planning applications affecting playing fields was recently reported by the DTLR (Building for Future Sports Stars—New Planning Controls Safeguard Sports Venues. News Release 396. 19 September 2001). There were 887 planning applications affecting playing fields referred to Sport England in 2000-01. This compares to 663 planning applications the previous year.

  9.5  The Town and Country (Playing Fields)(England) Direction 1998 applies when Sport England objects to a planning application affecting a local authority or school playing field. When the local authority is minded to give permission in spite of the objection, it is required to notify the DTLR. In the first two years, the Secretary of State used his new powers to "call in" just three of the 39 applications referred to him by planning authorities.

  9.6  Sport England objections have been over-ruled 92 per cent of the time by the DTLR.

  9.7  Preliminary evidence presented to the DCMS Playing Field Monitoring Group would suggest that 50 per cent to 70 per cent of local planning authorities are perhaps not complying with the 1998 Planning Legislation. Sport England and DTLR officials are jointly reviewing past records in more detail to provide a definitive picture.

  9.8  The CCPR has called for a moratorium on playing field sales in local authorities that have yet to carry out a playing pitch audit with an assessment of demand.


  10.1  The Committee may be aware of press reports that the DfES has given permission for Fosters Field in Dorset to be sold. This playing field was at a closed school and represented the only significant green space within the centre of Sherbourne. This decision represents a reversal of Charles Clarke's original decision, as Schools Minister, to protect Foster's Field.

  10.2  This decision highlights the real difficulties in creating joined up policy between DfES and DTLR in protecting playing fields for school and community use. The White Paper on Education presents an ideal opportunity to address the significant failing that prohibits the Education Department considering community need and the Planning Department considering educational need.

  10.3  Any assistance that the Committee is able to give to help deliver joined up Government on playing fields would be greatly appreciated. As an aside, it is unclear whether a compulsory purchase order would over-ride the legislation put in place to protect school playing fields.

  10.4  The Department for Education has approved some 97 per cent of applications by schools to sell playing fields since the new legislation came into force in 1998.


  11.1  The CCPR would welcome clarification on how the work of the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce, announced by the Regeneration Minister on 29 January 2001, relates to the draft PPG 17.

  11.2  The taskforce is due to report on delivering the Government's vision for parks, play areas and open spaces. It appears strange that the relevant PPG is due to be finalised before the taskforce reports.


  12.1  The CCPR believes that there is considerable scope for the Town and Village Green Legislation (The Commons Registration Act 1965) to be updated to provide genuine protection for community green spaces.

  12.2  The judgement of the Law Lords on the Sunningwell Case delivered on 25 June 1999 looked to clarify a number of important points concerning the registration of greens. This decision was widely welcomed by local groups as a means to assist in protecting their local green spaces from development.

  12.3  Subsequent to the Sunningwell Decision, local residents in Washington tried to register a local playing field as a village green. This claim was defeated because it was ruled that by cutting the grass, the Council had given implied permission. This decision has since been upheld by the Court of Appeal concerning R (Beresford) v Sunderland City Council on 26 July 2001.

  12.4  The CCPR would welcome any encouragement the Committee is able to give to the ensuring that local residents will still be able to register land as a village green. The creative use of the Village and Town Green Legislation offers an ideal opportunity to create a new legacy of urban green spaces for the twenty first century.


  13.1  The CCPR is interested to learn when the DTLR intend to publish a summary of the responses to the public consultation on PPG 17.


  14.1  The decision to update the 1991 Planning Guidance Note for Sport and Recreation is to be applauded. However, the draft leaves considerable scope for improvement.

  14.2  There seemed to be barriers to collaboration between the former DETR and other Departments to support the Government's Sports Strategy. These barriers to collaboration were even more pronounced for the voluntary sports sector. We trust that new DTLR will reaffirm its support for sport, open spaces and recreation.

  14.3  PPG 17 needs to provide clear policy guidance, which promotes sport and recreation in a more positive light. This will enable clubs to develop and improve for the benefit of sport, health, education, crime reduction and social inclusion.

September 2001

14   Sport England has previously estimated that the value of volunteer effort to sport and recreation is worth £1.5 billion each year. Local authorities spend around £1 billion pa on sport and recreation; the National Lottery allocates some £250 million each year to sport; and DCMS Exchequer spend on sport is worth £67 million this year. Back

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