Ministers yesterday denied opposition claims that the government had reneged on promises to end the sale of community and school playing fields after new figures showed that 40 applications to build on them were granted last year, despite objections from Sport England. Financial Times

Gerry Sutcliffe, sports minister, also revealed that planning applications for non-sports development on a further 314 sites were approved.

These sites were less than 0.4ha in size, the threshold at which Sport England, the government agency, has a statutory consultation role. Mr Sutcliffe wants that threshold lowered.

But 1,176 planning applications would result in improved or protected sports facilities, including 42 new indoor sports facilities and 404 outdoor facilities, Sutcliffe said.

Don Foster, who shadows Sutcliffe for the Liberal Democrats, said the figures contradicted government policy for ending the widespread sale of playing fields during the 1980s and 1990s.