Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
180. Does that not step back from what you were
mentioning previously which would be some minimum standards, say,
100 metres, 200 metres, 600 metres?
(Mr Elliot) Yes.
181. Is that not contrary to what you are saying
(Mr Elliot) We recognised that within the inner city
there are some areas that will never achieve our standard but
we need to try and secure ways of actually improving the quality
of these environments and also not simply the quantity of open
space but also the quality. Within the plan its provision chapter
says that we can trade off quantity against the standard with
quality of open space.
182. Could I ask you a rather tactless question?
Leeds has got very large amounts of land around quite a few of
its housing developments, some of which are fairly sterile. Forgive
me saying so but they are not landscape garden geniuses. Do you
have any plan to provide special facilities in those areas for
the children? I know it costs money. Has anybody done any kind
of imaginative plan that says, "We have got problems in this
area. We have got real difficulty with social housing. Let us
try and break the mould and do something special in that area"?
(Mr Elliot) What we are seeking to do as part of the
children's play strategy is to rationalise children's play so
that you have fewer formal children's play areas and you rationalise
the quality upwards so that within these what we are providing
is about five or strategic places with integrated play areas.
183. But you have just told us that children
play wherever they are and their mothers like to know where they
are, so creating very high quality few playgrounds might not be
the answer, might it?
(Mr Elliot) But balanced with more informal spaces
close to where children live. We recognise that we can have the
quality everywhere within Leeds, so what we are going to do is
place strategic high quality play areas
184. Are you targeting some of those big estates
which have got large amounts of land and you are thinking about
what you are going to do with that land?
(Mr Elliot) Yes.
185. What do you mean by "informal"?
In reality, if I am in a flat in a block on the edge of Leeds
and I am looking out of my window at an informal play area, what
does it look like?
(Mr Elliot) It looks like an area which cannot afford
186. You mean it looks like a dump?
(Mr Elliot) Yes. By the nature of its landscaping,
by the nature of its protection, by the nature of the fact that
it may be fenced, by the nature of the fact that you do not have
dogs walking across it.
187. But otherwise it is just an open piece
(Mr Elliot) It may be. We are working with our environmental
Chairman: We are running a little bit short
188. I just wanted to ask the GLA, do you have
any further views on the requirement and the reasonability of
(Ms Hennessey) Sure. The reason behind us deciding
to produce a guide was really to fill this apparent gap between
national guidance which requires local authorities to produce
there own standards and in the more current draft to undertake
a more thorough assessment of need. Between that and what actually
happens on the ground and, like many authorities around the country,
few London boroughs have produced their own standards, so the
idea was to facilitate their work and to provide a framework for
them to operate within. The idea behind an Open Space Strategy
is that it is corporately produced, a corporately owned strategy
that may be initiated within a planning department but should
be undertaken in conjunction with leisure departments, that it
looks across all types of different open space: allotments, parks,
and so on, but also looks at private open space as well as public
open space for the reason that I mentioned earlier, that a lot
of the opportunities to create new publicly accessible open space
are through the private open spaces in London. We believe the
guide will provide boroughs with the tools that they need to go
off and plan in a more comprehensive way and the elements of an
Open Space Strategy that we envisage would be starting with an
audit or a survey of all the open space provision within the local
authority, which sounds quite incredible but most boroughs in
London know where their public open space is but few have a comprehensive
record of all their open spaces including the privately owned
open spaces, and then to follow on from that by looking at where
the areas of deficiency are based on the standards but supplementing
the standards with user surveys and household surveys to really
get under the skin of what are the local needs within an area.
189. On that point about standards, how are
you going to deal with the areas like Tower Hamlets where there
is not a scrap of open land left virtually? How will you deal
with them in comparison to other boroughs where there is much
more open space?
(Ms Hennessey) Tower Hamlets do plot their areas of
deficiency based on the lower level of the GLC hierarchy which
190. We know the problem. The question you were
asked was, what do you do when you know the problem?
(Ms Hennessey) We are working with them to facilitate
the collection of the data that they need to enable them to use
191. But surely it is obvious, is it not, in
some of the more overcrowded parts of London that there is a lack
of green space? The question is, how do you get that green space?
(Ms Hennessey) The starting point has got to be collection
of thorough data on where your open space is, which ones you are
going to protect.
Sir Paul Beresford
192. Have you been to Tower Hamlets?
(Ms Hennessey) Yes.
193. I would like to ask a question on private
open space. In lots of our very congested towns and cities that
valuable green land is in fact privately owned. I think Leeds
their submission drew attention to this fact, that very little
protection is afforded. It is fine if it is part of the green
belt, the land concerned, or in a conservation area. What has
happened to local landscape status? Is that still around? I would
like you to comment on how perhaps we can protect and your views
on this draft PPG on privately owned land.
(Mr Elliot) Through the adoption of the Leeds UDP
we have designated what we call open land, which are large strategic
parcels of land to which the public does not have a right of access,
where we would only permit open uses which are recreation uses
or agricultural uses. It is one of the more contentious designations
that we have under the Leeds UDP. The point I was making in my
comment on the PPG was that we do not seem to have the national
guidance support for that designation for private land purely
retained for its own right in terms of open use, protected simply
for its own right without actually having a purpose that is tangible
but forming a green line along a major conservation route. I think
it points to the health of the city, the perception of the city
that we were talking about earlier. I do feel that the PPG needs
to tackle this. It could be under the word "value" in
terms of how we value open spaces.
Chairman: I think that is very helpful but I
am afraid I am going to have to cut you off because we are overrunning
quite a long way. Thank you all very much for your evidence.
2 Note by witness: This answer describes what
an informal space for children's play would look like. It does
not positively affirm the Chair's contention that the space "looks
like a dump". Indeed it is a reaction to the fact that the
space is not a dump and can be appropriately designed that is
context behind the answer. Back
Note by witness: design group to come up with examples
of informal play spaces. Back