Alison Moore-Gwyn: Let’s leave a 2012 legacy on our playing fields

THE focus of the nation will increasingly be on the two landmark events that are scheduled to take place this year: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics.

It promises to be a year filled with opportunities for both celebration and excitement but in order for 2012 to be truly successful these events must leave a meaningful and tangible legacy.

As the flags are packed away the bunting is picked up and the medal hoards are counted, how can we make sure the impact of this year doesn’t fade?

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In the summer of 2005, it was announced that London had been successful in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

Integral to this success was the promise of a grassroots sporting legacy and at Fields in Trust we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to help achieve our vision to ensure that everyone across the country has access to permanently protected outdoor recreational space.

Playing fields are the green hearts of communities and yet unfortunately they continue to be lost to development as pressure to build on them increases.

In 2010, the Compulsory Spending Review placed all kinds of outdoor recreational spaces in jeopardy as local authorities sought to cut their budgets of non-mandatory service provision.

We have now seen the proposals for considerable change to the National Planning Policy Framework alongside the Localism Act which lessens the statutory protection afforded to recreational spaces and will exacerbate the problem.

All too often the sale of playing fields and other recreational spaces is seen as a good financial option but this is a short-term fix that, in the long-term, creates more social problems. Green spaces contribute to the health and well-being of communities and research shows the prevalence of both obesity and anti-social behaviour is significantly reduced in areas with good access to outdoor space. The question truly is what is more important: price or value?

The aim of our legacy programme, The Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge, is to protect permanently 2012 outdoor recreational spaces in communities all across the country in celebration of these great events. Fields in Trust has been fortunate enough to have the support of both HM The Queen as Patron and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as President for more than half a century and the enthusiastic patronage of The Duke of Cambridge has been instrumental to our success so far.

He launched the project with these words: “The year 2012 marks the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to my Grandmother’s 60 glorious years on The Throne than to dedicate to The Queen this programme that will save playing fields for future generations.”

In June, we will be celebrating the Queen Elizabeth II Field and the Diamond Jubilee with our ‘Have a Field Day’ event. This is a great chance to get everyone in a community together for a day of fun and games on their local outdoor recreational space.

Supported by our principal partner Asda, we have received nearly 1,000 nominations of outdoor spaces to be protected as Queen Elizabeth II Fields so far and so we are almost half way there. These range from a Robert-Burns celebrated Scottish woodland walk and a coastal path in Kent to the venue for the World Alternative Games in Britain’s smallest town Llanwrtyd Wells.

This is wonderful but we need more nominations and in Yorkshire – a county characterised by its rolling dales, and game-shaping cricketing heritage – less than 0.01 per cent of the region has been signed up for protection through our scheme. Access to local playing fields is important not only for our health and well-being but also to ensure that we continue to produce the sporting stars of tomorrow. Footballing legend Tony Adams commented recently: “It’s vital that we preserve parks and playing fields, to ensure future generations of footballers – and cricketers, rugby fly-halves, tennis players and sprinters – have their first taste of sport at the grassroots, near home.”

Collectively the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics represent a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to protect and celebrate outdoor recreational spaces. If you care about these spaces in your community and recognise their value both now and for the next generation then please join with us and support The Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge and encourage your local authority to get involved. Please visit our website ww.qe2fields to support fields nominated in your local area or send a Call to Action card to your local authority.