Planning aims and objectives

Sport England wants everyone in England regardless of their age, background or level of ability to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity.

We are currently updating our planning for sport guidance which will replace our current guides along with our current and aims and objectives webpage.


The many benefits of sport and physical activity, including to people’s physical and mental health, are widely recognised.

Our physical and natural environments are key to helping people change their behaviours to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.

The planning system plays a vital role in shaping our environments.


Sport England’s aim in working with the planning system is to help provide places that maximise opportunities for sport and physical activity for all, enabling the already active to be more so and the inactive to become active.


This aim is supported by three objectives:

▪  Protect - To protect the right opportunities in the right places.

▪  Enhance - To enhance opportunities through better use of existing provision.

▪  Provide - To provide new opportunities to meet the needs of current and future generations.

Understanding people’s needs is central to meeting the objectives and planning effectively for sport. An assessment of needs should inform a strategy to meet the needs that is positively applied in both the forward planning and development management aspects of the planning system.




Existing provision should be protected unless an assessment has demonstrated there is an excess of the provision and the specific buildings or land are surplus to requirements, or equivalent or better provision will be provided as replacement.


The use of existing provision should be optimised, for example through quality, access and management improvements supported by appropriate ancillary facilities.


Appropriate new provision that meets needs and encourages people to play sport and be active should be provided by adapting existing places and through new development.    


To achieve its planning aim and objectives Sport England plays an active role in the planning system.

This includes helping to shape national and local planning policy, along with the design and masterplanning of large scale developments, and responding to planning application consultations.

Sport England also helps local authorities to understand the needs of people in their area for sporting provision and ensure that the needs arising from new development can be met.

This role involves Sport England engaging with both aspects of the planning system:

  • Forward Planning – Ensuring planning policies are positive towards sport and physical activity based on robust and up-to-date assessments of need (e.g. developing playing pitch and built facility strategies).                              
  • Development Management – Ensuring planning decisions recognise the benefits of, and result in positive outcomes for, sport and physical activity.


Sport England has a specific role in the planning system as a statutory consultee on planning applications for development affecting playing fields. The Government also advises local planning authorities to consult Sport England on a range of other sport-related applications, along with large scale housing developments.

Sport England welcomes pre-application consultations especially on proposals affecting playing fields and major development. For more information on its planning application role, see Sport England's Playing Fields Policy and its supporting guidance:


Sport England also acts more generally as an advocate for sport and physical activity in the planning system, engaging with a range of parties including Government, local authorities, national governing bodies of sport, developers, planning and leisure consultancies, and professional and representative bodies.