More playing fields protected by 2012 legacy fund

48 sports playing fields across England are to be protected and improved in the first wave of National Lottery investment by Sport England’s Protecting Playing Fields legacy fund.

The announcement came as Sport England invited communities across the country to bring the 2012 legacy to life in their area by bidding for support for a local playing field through the second £2 million round of Protecting Playing Fields.

In round one, over £2 million has been offered to sports clubs and local groups to bring disused playing fields back into use, improve existing sites or create new sports pitches. A further £8 million will be awarded to hundreds of projects through four more funding rounds.

Protecting Playing Fields is part of the Places People Play legacy programme to bring the inspiration and magic of a home Olympic and Paralympic Games into communities all over the country.

Sport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, said: “These investments will transform the local pitches where many young people have their first experience of sport.

"With all of the playing fields safe from development for at least a generation, communities across England can look forward to years of sporting enjoyment.”

Among the funding offers of between £20,000 and £50,000 are:

• £50,000 to drain and level Tufnell Park Playing Fields in Islington, the London borough with the fewest playing fields. In partnership with Islington Council, which is contributing £85,600, this project will allow the pitches to be used twice as often, benefiting mainly junior and women’s football teams.

• £50,000 for Cobham Sports Association in Surrey, where work will begin next week to turn a derelict golf driving range into three new multi-sport grass pitches, doubling the playing field provision at the club. That means more football, more lacrosse and more rugby union for local residents. The club is putting in £70,000 to the project.

• £49,000 for the OSCA Foundation, a charity in a deprived area of Halifax, West Yorkshire, which will take over ownership from the local council of a playing field where 90% of matches currently get cancelled because of water-logging and other issues. Following improvements, including enlarging the pitches, they will be used for rugby league in the summer and football in the winter.

All 48 playing fields will also be protected from developers for at least 25 years, creating an enduring benefit for sport, while 27 will become Queen Elizabeth II Fields, thanks to a partnership with Fields in Trust which is running the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge as part of the programme to mark the Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics.

Alison Moore-Gwyn, Chief Executive of Fields in Trust said: “This fantastic investment into grassroots facilities in England will help to ensure that neighbourhoods can participate in sporting activities at all levels for years to come.

"We are delighted to see that over half of these playing fields will also be protected in perpetuity as part of the permanent legacy that the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge will create in tribute to the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics.”

More than half of the groups benefiting from Protecting Playing Fields are community sports clubs while six are playing field associations, five are parish councils and three are schools or colleges. The awards include the purchase of five playing field sites totalling 25 acres and 13 pitches.

By simplifying the application process and reducing the technical expertise required to bid, Sport England has opened up this funding to groups that haven’t previously received public money. Almost half of the successful bidders (23) were first-time applicants.

Protecting Playing Fields builds on the work Sport England already does to safeguard playing fields as a statutory consultee on all planning applications affecting a sports playing field.

To find out more on Places People Play visit the Sport England website.

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