Lord Lexden – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Education

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Lexden on 2016-10-21.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether sales of school playing fields are increasing; and if so, whether they will take steps to curb such sales.

Lord Nash

Local authorities and schools must by law seek consent from the Secretary of State to dispose of playing field land. The department has a strong policy presumption against the disposal of school playing fields and only provides consent to dispose of playing field land if the criteria set out in the departmental guidance are met; which includes an expectation that proceeds from sales are reinvested in sports and education facilities. The department publishes a list of department decisions on applications for consent to dispose of school playing field land.

It would neither be practical or desirable to artificially curb the sale of school playing fields, when such disposals may represent the most effective use of public assets. Often changes are made to education provision, such as school closures or mergers, which mean it is no longer necessary to retain playing fields for school use. In such cases it is only right that local communities are able to benefit from space that otherwise would not be used. Converting surplus or unwanted assets to invest in school grounds has benefits that extend far beyond the school gates. No operating school has disposed of its entire playing field.

It is therefore right that schools should continue to determine what is suitable for their individual circumstances; subject to strong statutory protections including the Secretary of State’s consent and the application of rigorous criteria for what is best for pupils’ education and wider school and community life.