We have a school site where the level of playing field provision exceeds the Department for Education's minimum requirements. Does this constitute a ‘surplus’ in terms of meeting exception E1 of Sport England’s policy?
No - our definition of surplus needs to take account of wider community needs and be demonstrated through a robust assessment of supply and demand. The assessment should be based on the methodology contained within our published Playing Pitch Strategy guidance.
We have permission from the Secretary of State for Education to dispose of our playing field, does Sport England’s policy still apply?
Yes – The process for the disposal of school playing fields brought in under the 1998 School Standards and Framework Act is a completely separate process to the Planning process where we are a statutory consultee.
We no longer need all our playing fields to meet our playing pitch requirements. Can an application proposing an alternative use for the land therefore fall under exception E1?
No – an assessment against exception E1 should look at the supply and demand for all relevant pitch sports within an appropriate catchment or district wide and not be based on the use of one playing field in isolation.
Does a disused playing field indicate a lack of demand for playing fields in the area, thus demonstrating a surplus of provision in the catchment area?
No – there can be many reasons for a playing field to fall into disuse. It may be due to poor quality pitches and facilities, financial difficulties for the site operator, or a deliberate attempt to ‘mothball’ the site in the hope of securing consent for redevelopment. Therefore, absence of use should not necessarily be taken as demonstrating absence of need for the playing field land.
Does the scope of Sport England’s policy also cover private sports grounds?
Yes – our policy relates to all land in use as playing fields, last used as such, or allocated as playing field land in a development plan and is applied to all varieties of site ownership including local authority, education and private sports grounds.
The playing field has not been used for more than five years. Does Sport England’s policy still apply?
Yes - the policy relates to playing fields or land last used as playing fields, irrespective of when this use last occurred. The five year reference within Statutory Instrument 2010/2184 relates to the time limit for when we should be consulted as a statutory consultee on any planning application. We would still expect to be consulted on applications falling outside of this five year limit but this would be in a non-statutory capacity. We would still be guided by its Playing Field Policy in assessing such applications.
If part of a playing field does not contain any playing pitches, does this part fall outside the definition of a playing field?
No – the definition of a playing field relates to the whole of a site which contains at least one playing pitch. The playing field is not limited to the area currently marked out as playing pitches.
Is it true that with regard to Sport England policy the siting of an artificial grass pitch equates to two natural grass pitches?
No – this is a general rule used by the Department for Education to calculate school playing field requirements but has no relevance to our policy. Although artificial grass pitches can accommodate more intensive use over a given period than a natural grass pitch, they can only accommodate one match at a time thus limiting their capacity at peak periods of demand. In relation to our playing fields policy an assessment of the benefit to sport of an artificial grass pitch would need to be compared to the detriment to sport from the resulting loss of any natural grass pitch(es). This assessment and comparison is likely to be different in each case depending on a number of factors including, the supply and demand for both types of pitches in the local area and the chosen surface of the artificial grass pitch and therefore the sports and level of play it is suitable for.
Will a new indoor sports facility on a playing field always satisfy exception E5 as the benefits to sport will always outweigh any loss of playing field?
No – any application and subsequent assessment will need to consider the benefit to sport of the proposed indoor facility against the detriment to sport that would be caused by the loss of any playing field land. Although a new facility may bring significant benefits there may be cases where there is a specific shortage of playing field land in the locality and/or the area proposed for the location of the indoor facility plays an important role for the delivery of a specific pitch sport in that area. Also, a proposed indoor facility may be poorly designed or may not be made available for wider community use which would reduce any benefits to the development of sport.
Can replacement playing fields (as required under exception E4 of the policy) be provided through the intensification of existing sites (i.e. by marking out additional pitches on another playing field)?
No – exception E4 usually requires replacement to be new playing field land (i.e. not in current playing field use) in order to ensure there is no overall net loss of playing field provision.
Can proposals for new sports facilities on part of an existing playing field, which are funded through enabling development (e.g. residential development) on another part of the playing field, comply with exception E5?
No – although the new sports facility may bring significant benefits to sport and satisfy exception E5, the loss of playing field land to housing development is contrary to the policy (even if 'enabling development') unless a separate exception under E1, E3 or E4 can also be justified.