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PPS 8: Open Space, Sport and Outdoor Recreation
Annex B: Summary of the National Playing fields Association Minimum Standard for Outdoor Playing Space

B1 The National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) recommends a minimum standard for ‘outdoor playing space’ of 2.4 hectares per 1,000 population. This is commonly referred to as the ‘6 Acre Standard’. The NPFA does not regard ‘outdoor playing space’ to be the same as public open space, rather it is space that is safely accessible and available to the general public, and of a suitable size and nature, for sport, active recreation or children’s play. Accordingly it is a significant component, but not the only form, of open space.
B2 ‘Outdoor playing space’ is made up of two main components. The first of these is land provided for outdoor sport, principally for adults and youths. The second is playing space for children.
B3 Following a recent review, the NPFA maintains that its recommended levels for the allocation of ‘outdoor playing space’ are justified. Furthermore it confirms that these are minimum standards and advises that they should be exceeded whenever possible. The NPFA commends these standards to all local authorities throughout the United Kingdom.
B4 The following facilities are excluded from the definition of ‘outdoor playing space’, although the NPFA recognises that there are circumstances where some of them can make a valuable contribution to the total recreational provision of communities. They are not however regarded as substitutes for elements of the NPFA standard:
  1. outdoor sports facilities which are not as a matter of policy and practice available for public use, such as professional sports stadia;
  2. grounds of Her Majesty’s Services, unless as a matter of policy and practice and by formal agreement they are made available for public use;
  3. verges, woodlands, commons, the seashore, nature conservation areas, allotments, ornamental gardens and parks (except for clearly defined areas within them for sports, games, practice and play);
  4. golf facilities;
  5. water used for recreation, except where it forms an interactive feature of an outdoor play area;
  6. sports halls or leisure centres;
  7. commercial entertainment complexes and theme parks; and
  8. car parks for non-recreational use.
B5 The total NPFA standard should be met by ensuring land is available for outdoor sport and children’s play in the manner set out below.
(A) Outdoor Sport: 1.6 hectares
  1. Facilities such as pitches, greens, courts, athletic tracks and miscellaneous sites such as training areas in the ownership of councils;
  2. Facilities as described in 1. above within the educational sector which are available for public use by written agreement; and
  3. Facilities as described in 1. above within the voluntary, private, industrial and commercial sectors, which serve the leisure time needs for outdoor recreation of their members, or the public.
Note: - Included within the standard for outdoor sport is a specific allocation of 1.2 hectares per 1000 people for pitch sports.
(B) Children’s Playing Space: 0.8 hectares
  1. designated areas for children and young people containing a range of facilities and an environment that has been designed to provide focussed opportunities for outdoor play; and
  2. casual or informal playing space within housing areas.
B6 Further information can be found in the publication “The Six Acre Standard: Minimum Standards for Outdoor Playing Space”, NPFA, 2001.
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