A report commissioned by The London Playing Fields Foundation shows how playing fields make a major contribution to cost savings to local and central government. The Fields of Dreams impact report demonstrates the social, health and educational impact and cost savings attributed to the clubs and organisations based at just one of its playing fields in Walthamstow, north east London. It was calculated that the organisations using the charity’s facility delivered an annual minimum cost saving to the public purse of £4,805,928.
At a time when there is increasing pressure to build new homes on urban and rural green space it has been very difficult to resist the loss of playing fields. Over the past 25 years the number of grass cricket wickets in London has fallen by 41% and grass football pitches by 20 per cent. Until now it has been difficult to prove their wider community value.
The Fields of Dreams impact report, the first of its kind commissioned by a playing fields provider, demonstrates how the London Playing Fields Foundation’s approach to using sports development principles to underpin the management of its grounds can deliver wider tangible social, health and educational outcomes. It makes a compelling case for the protection and full use of playing field sites based on the contribution they make to improving the lives of the people who play there.
The research focuses on 16-25 year old users of the Douglas Eyre Sports Centre in Walthamstow and considers the playing field’s positive impacts upon community safety, physical health and wellbeing, educational attainment and economic regeneration. It shows that savings of nearly £5million could be achieved through proactively engaging with the local community and providing a venue through a combination of innovative management and effective partnerships with like minded organisations. Half of the social cost savings were delivered by five projects that had a specific commitment to driving social development through sport, including LPFF’s own London Communities Football League and Coping Through Football – a project focusing on young adults with mental health issues. Above all, the report argues that playing fields are far more than just parcels of open space and they provide a venue where a lifelong love of sport is engendered, friendships are formed and for the gifted few where careers begin.
Kate Hoey MP, LPFF President said: “The savings that well managed playing fields can make to the public purse are stunning and this report should make any school or local authority considering selling off their fields to think again.”
The full report and Executive Summary can be downloaded from the LPFF website: http://lpff.org.uk/About/Reports/Fields-of-Dreams