HL Deb 28 April 1988 vol 496 cc296-7

3.9 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether on the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority the Secretary of State for Education and Science will not transfer any of the 400 acres of seven major sports grounds which are not required by inner London boroughs for educational purposes to other local authorities or to sporting charities unless a condition is imposed that they are used for definite sports by the community, or educational establishments.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State recognises the importance of sports grounds and facilities. But we need to discuss the future use of all ILEA property with the inner London boroughs, users, and other interested parties before taking final decisions. Any property which is not transferred to the inner London boroughs on the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority will pass to the London Residuary Body.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that under ILEA, possibly because of its dislike of competitive sports, these 400 invaluable acres of recreation and sports grounds are and have been grossly underused? Between now and ILEA's demise in 1990, will she initiate some discussions with local authorities, sporting authorities and clubs so that these precious areas can be more fully used by the younger generation and those who enjoy recreation and sport?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, in preparing development plans for education each inner London council will be required to list the property it wishes to take over to carry out its education responsibilities. This will include sports facilities used by the schools and colleges in its area. Draft guidance on development plans was published earlier this week and sent to the boroughs. It explains the proposed arrangements for sports facilities which are used by more than one borough and also gives any other interested party the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Baroness David

My Lords, will the Government agree to meet also with the Sports Council? Can they give an assurance that these valuable acres will remain for leisure and community use and not be given over to commercial developers?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, we have consistently emphasised that we are willing to discuss the future of services in inner London with anyone with a special interest. This will include the Sports Council, the National Playing Fields Association and other similar bodies. We are happy to include anybody with such an interest in sports facilities. No disposal of the land can be made Without the agreement of the Secretary of State.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether the Secretary of State will be against uses other than for sports?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the processes are intended to establish these areas for sporting facilities. If there is no take-up from inner London boroughs, outer London boroughs or any other interested party, other suitable use for the land may be considered.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend perhaps initiate a survey to see how much these sporting facilities, football pitches and so on are used? The impression is given that they are grossly underused. Is it not a shame that they should lie fallow when energetic young people want to take advantage of them?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the intensity of use of the facilities will be one of the important considerations.