We want to make the best use of derelict sites for housing and other development. We also want to protect playing fields because of their vital contribution to health and to the quality of life. Our planning policies are designed to do both those things. Since August, any proposal to develop on a playing field must be referred to the Sports Council for England, as statutory consultee, to ensure that local planning authorities are aware of any deficiency in playing field provision before making any decisions.
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent action in saving the GWR playing fields in west Ealing in my constituency from development for housing by British Rail, and contrast that with the Ealing Labour council's strenuous attempts to build houses on Dormers Wells high school playing fields, until the council was stopped from doing so by the Government. May I support his admirable policies of building on derelict land, which is obviously more suitable than playing fields?
Too much derelict land is owned by all owners of property in Britain, and it is incumbent not just on the Government but on local authorities, public institutions and private owners to try to get that land developed.
Does my hon. Friend agree that local councils such as my own in Wyre should be encouraged to develop land in urban areas, particularly derelict land, and not develop open fields on the edges of towns? Will he ensure that in future local plans reflect that need?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. Given the great demographic challenges to which we must face up, the key way of trying to ensure that houses are provided is to ensure that they are on already used land. It is depressing that, when we are trying to encourage a return to central towns and cities, the Labour party spokesman on these issues, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), is busy all the time promising developers that there will be a turning back from the encouragement to go into the centres.