09 Jan 2020

New figures show that Sport England has protected or improved sports provision in 94% of planning applications affecting playing fields. It's a statutory consultee for local councils on any planning application that would affect or lead to the loss of a sports playing field. Unless a developer can prove their proposal will improve or protect sports provision at the site, then they object to the plan.

The data, which covers the period between April 2017 and March 2018, shows that they continue to act to protect and enhance playing fields across the country.

The figures also showed that:

  • In 45% of the cases where Sport England originally objected to an application, further negotiations led to an overall improvement in sports provision.
  • Of the 135 applications where Sport England maintained its objection, 61 were either withdrawn by the applicants or refused planning permission.
  • During this period there were 1,274 planning applications affecting playing fields, which is a 4.5% increase on 2016/2017.

Sport England head of planning, Nick Evans, said: "Many of our first experiences of sport and physical activity happen on playing fields – that’s why the places where we get active really matter.

"Protecting these fields is at the heart of what we do – enabling more people in local communities to take part in grassroots sport and physical activity.

"Today’s figures show that we are continuing to protect critical spaces for people to be active. Our ultimate aim is to create a network of high-quality playing fields that we can all be proud of."

As of 18 December 2019, our Active Places data shows that across England there are 22,204 playing field sites, containing a total of 70,648 pitches.