Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 220 - 221)



  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 to do.


  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.

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