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4:26pm 17th August 2012

More school playing fields have been sold off by the coalition than we first thought.

The Department of Education has said sorry for the figures blunder.

Initially 21 were revealed, but we're now told the correct figure is 30.

Independent experts were overruled five times over the approval too.

One school in North Yorkshire was involved with the overruled sell-off.

But the decision was apprantly approved because Ingleton Middle School in Craven was due to close.

Details from North Yorkshire County Council Regarding Ingleton Middle School

North Yorkshire County Council carried out a review of school provision in the North Craven area which resulted in the closure of Ingleton Middle School from 31st August 2012.

Ingleton Primary School is on an adjacent site. Following consultation with the school, and with the community during the consultation on the wider proposals, the county council  determined to transfer a significant amount of the Ingleton Middle School team games area to Ingleton Primary  School, with the express requirement that any existing community sport commitments continue to be honoured.

In terms of area for team sports, Ingleton primary school already had significantly in excess of statutory requirements.   For a school of approximately 120 children, the requirement is for 2,500 square metres. Before the review, they had 6,875 square metres, and with the addition of the transferred site, they have 13,297 square metres - well over five times the requirement for a school of this size.

We applied to the Secretary of State in the normal way for approval for disposal of the remainder of the site.

Following consideration by the School Playing Fields Advisory Panelm, the Education Funding Agency wrote to the authority to indicate that the panel's advice was that the application should be rejected.  The panel’s argument was that we didn’t need to sell the playing fields for income because we had already found resources in advance to improve sports facilities at Settle College (which was to take in Ingleton Middle School students).

The Education Funding Agency asked the local authority for its comments, which we provided.  We pointed out that the council had already agreed to retain a significant area of the Ingleton Middle School playing field to form an expanded site for Ingleton Primary School, which would also allow for continued use by the local community, sports clubs and schools in the area. The remaining land, which was the subject of the request for disposal, is adjacent to the now closed school buildings and  is not currently used by the local community for recreational or sports purposes. 

Following that letter, the Secretary of State gave approval to the disposal, with the usual requirement that any net sale proceeds arising from the disposal should be used towards specific projects to improve or enhance sports or educational facilities at schools.

The position is, therefore, that children in Ingleton of primary school age have an area for team games which is over five times the size required through regulations. They also have significant additional areas of more informal play space and hard play areas. The team games area can be used by other primary schools in the area and  there will be ongoing access for local sports clubs.

Children of secondary school age benefit from the sports facilities at Settle College, where they attend school, and the local authority has invested capital into facilities at that school in the course of the current restructuring of education in the area.

We are currently engaging with the community in Ingleton about future use for health and community purposes of the building and playing field land we have approval from the Secretary of State to dispose of.  No decision will be taken in the short term about commercial disposal until this option has been exhausted.

Both Langcliffe and Low Bentham schools were closed due to very low numbers.  A new primary school is to be built between Low Bentham and High Bentham villages  which will offer excellent sports facilities and playing fields to at least match statutory requirements.

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