Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
120. I am sure we would like to hear the views
of both of you, so whichever one gets in first. If you agree there
is no need to repeat it, but we got the impression that there
is a slight divergence, shall we say, between the two of you.
(Mr Meigh) I am on the opposite side of the table.
I am a leisure officer rather than a planner. Our authority has
had a mix and match approach. We have used the NPFA and then we
have tried to do a top-up for amenity open space which is the
more casualthe dog walking area. We are in the middle of
a green belt review and the local plan is on hold pending the
green belt review. We have tried this mix and match approach of
the NPFA and a local top-up and have found it is not very satisfactory,
so we are looking towards a hybrid of that and have the two together
and make it a requirements that the developers will provide NPFA
standards plus additional open space for more casual use. If the
PPG allows us to do that I think that will be welcomed.
121. So you would be saying six acres plus?
(Mr Meigh) Yes.
122. Plus what?
(Mr Meigh) Anywhere between 0.4 and 0.9 of a hectare.
123. That is nicely done to confuse me. I presume
it confuses everybody else.
(Mr Meigh) Six acres is 2.4 hectares, so going up
to around the three hectare mark. The variation is due to whether
it is a brownfield or a greenfield site and to give some flexibility
depending on existing open space in that area as well.
124. So you do not want national standards laying
down as far as I can see.
(Mr Meigh) I suppose you could say we want to have
our cake and eat it. We like both. We want some guidance on the
minimum. We failed to meet NPFA in most of our wards, so it is
a real problem. We need that extra flexibility to add on local
125. Why did you feel the NPFA standard would
(Mr Meigh) The view from our planners is that it gives
them a defensible standard in inquiries. If you go out on your
own, making your own local judgements, that is more open to challenge,
so by having a standard that is nationally recognised and quite
well adopted, when it comes to challenges from developers
126. Are you concerned about being challenged?
(Mr Meigh) The authority is, yes.
(Mr Meigh) I suspect because they feel that they would
have fewer grounds for defending their own standards.
128. Surely if you did a local assessment and
you went for it without the UDP that would equally stand at any
(Mr Elliot) It depends how robust that local assessment
has been. What Leeds has found is that NPFA has been quite a comfort
to them. We have not actually adopted NPFA standards within our
UDP. We have gone for more of what we call an accessibility matrix
which protects green space based on how close it is to home. We
should have a certain amount of green space within 50 metres of
home, within 200 metres of home, within 400 metres of home, and
accord each parcel of open space within the district within that
129. That is not very flexible, is it? You are
saying it is a kind of comfort blanket. We all say, in case anybody
questions us, we must have something we can quote. You are saying
that we must have flexibility except that we are going to lay
down 200, 400 and 600 metres. Is there not a mild contradiction?
(Mr Elliot) I am not sure what you mean by a contradiction.
130. Are you saying in effect that you are happier
with a clear statement that you can quote that is outside your
own involvement, and then you want to add a little bit on, or
are you saying, "Give us the use of our own local plans and
then we will move on from there"?
(Mr Elliot) I think it depends on the justification
of need because while Leeds City Council protects an awful lot
of green space within its district it does not necessarily have
all the robust justification for the amount of protection in terms
of the needs assessment.
131. So you need a comfort blanket?
(Mr Elliot) So the NPFA does in fact provide a comfort
blanket to say, "You have this amount of hectares per thousand
of population". Within those accessibility standards we do
readily have a needs assessment. This piece of green space is
required not only because it meets our accessibility standard
but because of the value that is placed upon it.
132. So you really do not need national standards
because you have not done the job of proper assessment?
(Mr Elliot) We have not done an assessment absolutely
in terms of assessing each part of green space because of the
resource implications involved.
Sir Paul Beresford
133. If you have your comfort blanket and you
have got greater provision, does that not make you easily vulnerable
from the other direction?
(Mr Meigh) Over provision tends to be protected by
other guidance, like green belt, in the York case anyway given
the nature of the layout of the city. It is generally within the
134. So you do not need a security blanket?
(Mr Meigh) Not in terms of those pieces of land. I
am sorry for confusing people. We have used the NPFA standards
as the basis for our assessment. We have taken the standards,
done an audit of open space, done travel times and distances to
it and that
135. Have you done an assessment of need?
(Mr Meigh) Need is incredibly difficult to define.
136. Have you done an assessment of usage and
potential usage? I would have thought that would be core to your
assessment of need. Offices and businesses are great but businesses
do not actually get on the football team mostly, especially if
they are mine.
(Mr Meigh) Sorry; I missed that.
137. I think we should move on.
(Ms Hennessey) Can I add a point about the value of
having a standard? I think it is a bit more than a safety blanket.
These standards have been drawn up on the basis of quite substantial
research, particularly the NPFA standard but I am also thinking
about the standard that we have inherited in our strategic guidance
from the former Greater London Council, the open space hierarchy,
which was drawn up on the basis of very substantial survey work.
There is an issue about the cost effectiveness of requiring local
authorities to go into that level of detail, to keep re-inventing
the wheel and producing their own standards which have to stand
up at public inquiries. The NPFA standard and formerly the GLC
standard offered the reassurance that it was scientifically proven.
That is not to say that it is perfect but it does offer a starting
point. In the absence of vast amounts of research being produced
by local authorities it is a good starting point.
138. The draft revision of PPG17 as it currently
stands does not really address the needs of young people in particular
play areas for children and the needs of teenagers. This question
is particularly addressed to York City Council and Leeds City
Council. What approach do your councils take to providing young
people and children with the areas that they should be given and
how do you ensure that they are maintained in the long term?
(Mr Elliot) Leeds City Council is involved in producing
a children's play strategy at the moment because it would be fair
to say that we recognise that our guidance may have got it wrong
in the past in terms of requiring children's play in association
with new development across the board. This new children's play
equipment has tended to be fixed equipment irrespective of the
need for fixed equipment within that development. What we are
recognising now is that children's play requirements are broader
than fixed play equipment. They extend to different types of equipment
for different ages, they extend to areas where children can feel
safe and where children feel that they have a sense of ownership
of the space, where they can engage in informal activities. That
cuts right across the age range from the very young, where we
would like to see open spaces close to home, to teenagers where
obviously there is more opportunity to travel but where teenagers
can actually call a space their own. At the moment within open
space teenagers drift from open space to open space without any
sense of ownership. It often seems a problem. It often becomes
anti-social in that they are often using spaces that are inappropriate
for them, such as children's play spaces, which become damaged
or vandalised or become honeypots for teenagers. We are recognising
that we need to produce children's play areas slightly out of
the box almost so that we do not have formally equipped children's
play areas, and on top of that to try and get integrated play
for children who are disabled across the whole range into the
environment a lot more and integration there.
139. What is Leeds' definition of play?
(Mr Elliot) I am sure we have one but I honestly could
not tell you. I think it is children enjoying their environment
basically. Children will play wherever they find themselves.
1 Note by witness: The point is that a standard,
whether an absolute or an accessible one, has an inherent needs
assessment within it, which can avoid the need to conduct detailed
needs assessment based on value alone. Back