§ Mr. Chaytor
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many school playing fields have been sold during each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
§ Jacqui Smith
Prior to October 1998 there was nothing to prevent a local authority selling a school playing field if it wanted to. An estimated 40 playing fields a month were sold in this way under the previous Government. Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was introduced, with effect from 1 October 1998, to stop the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields. Local authorities and governing bodies of all maintained schools, including foundation schools, are now required to obtain the Secretary of State's consent before disposing of playing fields, or any part of a playing field.
Since October 1998, 76 applications from local authorities and governing bodies to sell areas equal to, or larger than, a sports pitch have been approved. As no 38W national figures were collected before October 1998, the following table provides a breakdown of these approved applications for each year since the law was changed.
Sale of school sports pitches approved under section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 since October 1998. Year Number of sales 1998 7 1999 44 2000 25
1. All sale proceeds are used to provide new or improved sports or education facilities at maintained schools.
2. 38 per cent. of approved applications were in respect of sports pitches at closed or closing schools.
3. In 68 per cent. of cases at operating schools, the sale proceeds have been used to provide new or enhanced sports facilities, including sports halls, all-weather pitches or improved grass sports pitches.
4. 'Sports pitch' means an area of open grassed land which is equal to, or larger than, the Football Association's recommended 2,000 sq m area for games played by under-10s and which has a configuration making it suitable for sports pitches, whether laid out as a sports pitch or not.