County hangs on to playing fields

DESPITE half of the country's school playing fields being sold off since 1992, only one in Suffolk has been sold in the past five years.

DESPITE half of the country's school playing fields being sold off since 1992, only one in Suffolk has been sold in the past five years.

Details released today by Suffolk County Council show a £500,000 deal for part of Ellenbrook playing field in Ipswich has been the sole sale since the end of 2001, bucking the national trend.

However according to the results of a Freedom of Information request by The Evening Star there are sections of three other playing fields in the county currently under consideration for sale.

A small area of Deben High's playing field in Felixstowe is in the process of being sold to a neighbouring landowner. The likely proceeds from selling the 210 square metres will be less than £50,000.

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The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has also given consent for the disposal of 520sq metres of the East Bergholt Primary site formerly used as a pond habitat. The likely proceeds are less than £10,000.

Meanwhile at Leiston Middle School an unused field at Neale Close could also be sold, although currently there is no planning consent so the value and timescale of any sale are difficult to assess.

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The unused section of Ellenbrook playing field which was sold off belonged to Chantry High School.

The land measured approximately a third of a hectacre, which was the site of the demolished changing rooms. The sale was completed in September 2005.

A county council spokeswoman said: “The land was sold for £500,000 which was utilised towards the construction of the new multi use games area and changing facilities on the Chantry High School site.”

The remainder of the playing field, around three hectacres, has been transferred by lease to Ipswich Borough Council for use and management as a playing field.

The selling off of school playing fields to developers has been shrouded in controversy given the rising levels of obesity among the young and the diminishing number of hours spent on physical education.

Local authorities must obtain DfES consent for the disposal of any part of school playing fields.

According to government figures, almost 34,000 school sports pitches had been dug up by 2005. These had been replaced with new buildings, or consigned to alternative uses.

In 1992 there were 78,000 games pitches at 26,000 sites throughout England. However 13 years later there were only 44,000 pitches at 21,000 sites, a government audit revealed.

What do you think about the selling off of school playing fields? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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