§ Mr. Letwin
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is his Department's policy on the sale of school playing fields required for educational or community purposes; and if he will estimate the number of such fields(a) currently declared surplus to educational requirements and (b) where planning consent has been given for change of use. 
§ Mr. Byers
We intend to make sure that those playing fields which schools and their local communities need are not sold in future. To that end, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is discussing a wide range of options with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
The current legal framework allows local authorities to dispose of the assets they own without reference to the Secretary of State. The governors of grant-maintained schools, however, do need prior approval. But we expect local authorities to consider carefully projected pupil numbers for the foreseeable future and the needs of the wider communities that their schools serve, before they decide that any land is surplus to requirements.
Decisions on the sale of LEA-maintained playing fields are for local determination. The Department does not collate this information centrally.162W
Planning consent is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.