HC Deb 13 December 1989 vol 163 c990
15. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he is taking to protect school and community playing fields; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

It has long been Government policy that local authorities should consult sporting and recreational interests in considering any application for the development of recreational land. The Department is currently preparing a planning policy guidance note on sport and recreation which will consolidate and update the existing guidance.

Mr. Greenway

Is the Minister aware that we are in danger of becoming a nation of Billy Bunters?

Mr. Hayward

Not all of us.

Mr. Greenway

I did not say of all ages but perhaps I should have done. We are in danger of becoming a nation of Billy Bunters because playing fields are disappearing owing to local authority pressure on them for building. Is he aware that in my constituency the beautiful Cayton road playing fields—17 acres with trees and the rest․have been children's playing fields for over 50 years? The national Labour party says that it is in favour of retaining playing fields, but Ealing Labour-controlled council is doing its utmost to build on them and to take them away from the community and from children. Will he do something about it?

Mr. Howard

Were it not for the Government's sensible policy on these matters, the danger referred to by my hon. Friend might well exist. I know that he has made a strenuous effort to fight for the retention of the playing field to which he referred but he will understand that, as the decision may come before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I cannot comment on the matter further today.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Does the Minister know of any case where playing fields sold for redevelopment have been returned to use as playing fields? Does not the absence of such cases make vital a proper national Government strategy rather than mere guidelines?

Mr. Howard

We have asked the Sports Council, the Central Council of Physical Recreation and the National Playing Fields Association to combine to consider the matter and to determine whether it is desirable to compile a register of playing fields. That might go some way to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman's points.

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