When it is a "brownfield site". Over 5,000 school playing fields have been sold to developers in the last 10 years, and now my towns' primary schools is to be added to that list. (See picture, right, courtesy of Cambs Times. See article here) 4 out of 10 playing fields vanished between 1992-2005. Under Labour, the loss was slowed and more community fields manintained, but this looks set to stop and reverse under the new government, with its' more "open" attitude to development, especially in my area, the East of England. There are apparently stringent regulations that require the school to maintain, after sale, "adequate" sports facilities, but what is adequate? Councils have to show they have looked into other possibilities, but who checks?
My own school will lose a large swathe of land, which includes a nature trail and pond which my son routinely uses with his pre-school. They pond dipped there this Summer. The play area of the school will be severly curtailed, and the school will now be oeverlooked by 67 houses, and have to contend with vastly increased traffic and all the noise and thunder of the construction. In my own case, the council have opposed the planning application. But because of the opposistion, the yay or nay moved to the Secretary of State, a jolly Tory Lady name of Caroline Spelman, (right) worth 1.8 million, who probably has no idea, given her rarified background, of the importance of these spaces to her rural and poorer citizens. No, she's too busy passing off her Nanny's wages as expenses and getting away with it. Needs £40,000 to clean her home, apparently. Must be quite big. Grrr! Apparently, it's fine to sell off the land, and the school will be just dandy without it. And neither will we need section 106 money (designed to compensate for loss, by giving money to replace the need, build like for like or help out with education),because apparently, the extra homes won't impact on our already oversubscribed schools. Tell that to parents who drive their kids to neighbouring schools 15 miles off, Department for Education.
Now, at the same time as telling us all that our children are fat and unhealthy, where is the sense in restricting the area they can play in? We can't all be hoiked away to fancy gyms in our 4X4's. There are no footpaths, save a few, round here. There are no cycle lanes. The roads are given over to tractors. There is no gym in town, no leisure centre, 2 crappy parks taken over by teenagers. No community centre with a play area, no all-weather pitch, nothing. Nada. Now not even a primary school field. What will the Secretary of State for Health think, when the kids are fatter? What will the chappie in charge of crime think, when, not having had the opportunity to learn a sport and run in their early years, the kids are hanging about in a gang being bored?
The Fens are the poorest, least funded area in the East of England. We have the highest teen pregnancy rates, high youth unemployment, and low achievment all round. And yet the parents I meet daily want the best for their kids, they want them to do well. Who is it, do you suppose, that doesn't? Could it possibly be the (whisper it) Government? Who want to hit a target of Eastern England Development very quickly? With sod all thought ot infrastructure? And what is this I see? 1,000 new homes on the flood plain at the end of my garden. And they'll be giving us (not promised, not in a contract, just offered to shut us up and never delivered), a swimming pool. How about a bigger Secondary? No? A pool you say? Well, we won't need it. The run off from the school playing field and the 1,000 new homes will turn the whole of town into one. Then we won't need to worry. Silly me.