Fields in Trust

How to help your local parks

Whether you are looking to lend a hand with the local park group, have a bee in your bonnet about planning proposals or want to learn more about the powers you have in your local area.

Do you think your park is at risk?

8 steps for fighting a planning application

Have you seen a notice or proposal for a new development? Are your council talking about building on your local park? If so, follow our 8-step guide for challenging a planning application and make a stand for your parks and green spaces!

As soon as you discover a park or green space is under threat from development it is important to move quickly, find out the details, and get other people involved.

Step 1
Know the details

You can find out details of the proposals from the local authority’s website, they will all have a section on planning applications. It’s important to note the key dates for the application, such as when objections can be submitted and when decisions are due to be made. Once you know the details it’s time to get as many people on your side as possible.

Step 2
Get people on your side

Involve as many local stakeholders as possible. Talk or write to local residents, put up posters and create a Facebook group or webpage and use social media. Let a wide range of interested parties know the details of the development and invite them to meet or talk.

There are a number of people and organisations that could help your campaign and you should contact them for advice and support. They may include:

  • Community Councils
  • Local Sports Associations
  • National Governing Bodies of Sport
  • Open Space organisations
  • Play associations or charities
  • Parks and voluntary services agencies
  • Rural protection charities

You should also try to make contact with local government officers and officials:

  • Meet the planning officer ideally at the park. It is well worth making contact as they will be able to provide further detail and information on the application and any relevant local planning policies.
  • Meet your local Councillor, Member of Parliament at their next surgery or request a meeting. Take all the relevant information on your case and emphasise the strength of local opposition.
  • Lobby the planning committee members, their information can usually be found through the ‘Your Council’ section of the council's website.

It is also worth contacting statutory consultees – those groups that are required to comment on planning applications – to assess their position and to urge them to object. These can include:

  • Town, Parish and Community Councils
  • Highway authorities
  • Conservation authorities, such as Natural England, Natural Resource Wales, and Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency,
  • English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Sport England, sportscotland and Sport Wales will comment on any application that affects playing pitches

Step 3
Find out about the legal titles of the land

You can obtain title documents for the land in question from the Land Registry website for England, Wales and NI, or Registers of Scotland.

Viewing the Register of Title, or the Title Sheet or title deeds in Scotland, can help to confirm whether there are any covenants or restrictions on the land. If you find that a Fields in Trust restriction, or condition in Scotland, is registered on the land, make the landowner aware and let us know. Sometimes our original name is used – National Playing Fields Association.

Step 4
Seek professional advice

Consider seeking advice from a professional Planner, or Planning Solicitor, to assess the planning application. They should be able to provide a thorough list of the objective grounds for

opposing the development and compile any instances where the application contravenes local or national policy.

You can also go to Planning Aid which is a free, voluntary service offering independent professional advice and help on town planning matters. It is aimed at individuals, community groups and other voluntary groups who cannot afford to pay for private consultants.

Step 5
Local policy and building your case

It’s important to become familiar with the planning policies that apply to your area. Especially the policies concerning the protection of recreational space and play facilities. Most Local Plans and Local Development Plan Evidence Bases will include an Open Spaces Assessment which give provision guidelines that you should read.

A well-prepared planning application should meet with local planning policies, but you may still find a piece of planning policy that will support your objection. Comparing the planning application to local policies is a good place to start when building your case.

Identifying all the possible material considerations is critical, your case you will stand a greater chance of success if you show how your arguments represent material planning considerations.

Material planning considerations are unique in each case and are matters that should be considered when deciding a planning application or appealing against a decision. They are set by the planning authority.

Use local planning considerations primarily, as local policy could carry most weight. Look particularly for council policies on the following which should be found in the Local Plan Evidence Base:

  • Open Space Assessment (All)
  • Sport (All)
  • Recreational land (All)
  • Play space (All)
  • Green belt or other forms of safeguarded green networks (All)
  • Metropolitan Open Land (Greater London only)
  • Play sufficiency (Wales, Scotland)
  • Public health strategies (All)
  • Playing pitch assessments or strategies (England, Scotland)
  • Wellbeing plans (Wales)
  • Area statements (Wales)
  • Green Infrastructure Plans (All)

Establish whether the proposals would contravene the policies contained in the Local Plan or Local Development Plan Evidence Base, if they do then they can be highlighted in your objection as a material consideration. Your campaign group should lodge individual objections based on the same material considerations.

Other evidence

Check any local quantity and accessibility standards contained in the Local Plan or Local Development Plan Evidence Base. These usually give the amount of each type of recreational space that should be provided per 1,000 people, along with a distance in metres from which residents should have access to them.

Find out about guidance and key issues specific to protecting and enhancing the natural environment, including local requirements for green infrastructure and biodiversity net gain. Having these to hand can really strengthen your argument.

Support your argument with national policy too if it is relevant - such as health, education, environment, crime and transport. You can refer to your country's National Planning Framework too, which can be found on the respective government website.

Our Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play is used by most local authorities as the benchmark for open space provision per head. It’s worth making a note of the standards that we set and seeing how the changes proposed may affect provision in the future.

Assess the demand for the land, if you can establish formal and informal usage and unmet or potential demand your case will be more robust.

Gathering the above information and knowing the planning and legislation landscape, will give you all the tools you need to begin building your evidence base.

Step 6
Objecting to the application

You should fight the planning application by formally objecting to the proposals in writing. Do this at both the outline and detailed planning phases, basing your objection on the material considerations.

It may be easier to submit your objections online via the planning application web page. This will also mean that other objectors will immediately see your objection on the web page which might be useful for others to see.

To make sure objections are consistent then asking as many individuals as possible to also object formally on the same terms is a good idea.

Some local authorities allow members of the public to address their planning or development control committee, or your Town, Parish or Community Council may be a statutory consultee and may hold their own meeting to discuss the application. In both cases you should take the opportunity to elect a campaign spokesperson to speak at these meetings if you get the chance.

The largest planning applications will invariably be decided by Planning Committee and a preparatory step is for the case officer to prepare a report for the committee. The report forms the basis for the Councillors’ debate and decision at the Planning Committee.

Step 7
The decision

There are three possible decisions that can be made by the planning committee. Two will give you the chance to appeal.


If the application is approved objectors have no right of appeal. The only option is a Judicial Review, which must be applied for within six weeks from the date planning permission is granted. It is a legal process that is limited to consideration of the process, e.g. that the planning authority took into account all material considerations.

If successful, the decision would be overturned and the planning authority would be required to look at the application again. A Judicial Review is likely a costly process and should be considered very carefully by any campaign group before taking it forward.

Approved with conditions

If the application is approved with conditions, you should check to ensure that those conditions are followed and implemented correctly, particularly if they concern replacement green space.

Application refused

If the application for planning permission is refused, the applicant has the right of appeal within six months. If the applicant does appeal, you can lodge a further objection. Appeals aren’t publicised as much as planning applications but if you lodged an objection to the application you should receive notification of an appeal. Your original objection will be sent to the inspector to be included in deliberations.

Step 8

Appeals are decided by informal hearings or public inquiries. At both such events you may have the opportunity to attend and speak. It may well be worth a considering the employment of a professional adviser to represent your campaign group at a public inquiry. The local planning authority can also explain the appeal procedure to you.

If the application is refused or withdrawn, this would be the perfect time for you to push the council to work with Fields in Trust to protect the green space forever and avoid any future threats to it.

See how others have made a difference

 Rescuing a loved local park

Learn how a group of local residents campaigned to get Parc Llewelyn protected forever with Fields in Trust, so it could be enjoyed by generations to come.

Saving a village playing field

Discover how the village of Stradishall rallied together to run a community fundraising campaign to purchase a village playing field.

Halting a planning application

Find out how petitions, posters, and press briefings were used to pressure a local council to withdraw development plans and protect the Rumney Recreation Ground.