Examination of Witness (Questions 220
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
220. Is that solely for the management of the
open spaces or is it right down to formal play areas?
(Mr Barber) Given that it is such a big land use I
think it clearly should have a planning function as well. How
that would dovetail with the planning responsibilities overall
would be a difficult one to do. I would not like to speculate
on it now. I am saying there are different mechanisms in other
countries which seem to have worked very well and are worth studying.
We seem to be in a fix of having very poor quality open space
in many cities and it is very difficult to improve it and we have
got a British planning system which seems to be an administrative
thing. If Mr and Mrs Bloggs at 32 Acacia Avenue want a granny
flat over the garage, you cannot beat the British planning system
for dealing with that and it may well deal with it within eight
weeks, but when it comes to urban planning and urban renaissance
and the improvement of cities, and the flow of people gaining
economic and social benefits and so on, it is not really there.
This is the problem; there is a mismatch between the ambitions
for urban regeneration and what the planning system seems able
221. We know you advocate a national agency
for the open space parks. When we heard Sport England last week
they were making a point that they can send expert advice to a
planning inquiry to oppose the loss of a sports facility and that
seemed to me to be quite expensive in cost terms. Would you envisage
a national body doing the same sort of thing? Or would it not
be far better to get the planning guidance clear so you would
not have to have those sorts of inquiries in the first place?
(Mr Barber) I think more than the planning it may
be that the law itself has to be clearer to do that. I do get
the impression that the planning system as it stands is well favoured
by lawyers because there are plenty making money out of appeals
on one side or the other. I think it is unfortunate that organisations
like Sport England have to spend their time looking at this. They
are not the only ones. There are valiant voluntary organisations
like the National Playing Fields' Association and others who also
have to step in and play that role because there is nobody else
to do it.
Chairman: On that note, thank you very much
for your evidence.