Examination of Witnesses (Questions 222
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
222. Can I welcome all three of you to the final
session this morning. Can I ask you to identify yourselves for
(Mr Newton) Mike Newton, Head of Planning at The House
(Mr Smith) Julian Smith, Head of External Affairs
at The House Builders Federation.
(Mr Robinson) Dickon Robinson, Director of Development
and Technical Services at the Peabody Trust.
223. Do any of you want to say anything by way
of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight into questions?
(Mr Robinson) I have got one or two things
I would just like to say which are derived from my organisation's
experience of managing large, inner city housing estates which
are characterised by large amounts of open space (which is somewhat
overlooked when people are discussing open space strategies such
as you are today). Obviously those estates are also characterised
by high density living and therefore open space generally in the
neighbourhood is particularly important to those communities.
We think that the quality of those spaces is a crucial issue and
much too often the quality of those spaces is not high enough.
We think we should be encouraging the regeneration strategies
which come under a whole plethora of headings like New Deal for
Communities or Action Zones to have a quite explicit open spaces
strategy which looks at all the open space in these areas, whether
it is private open space or communal shared open space or dedicated
public open space. We think that that Open Space Strategy should
give particular regard to the interests of young people because
they tend to use open space for social and recreational use more
than other age groups, but also because, from an urban regeneration
point of view and estate management point of view, young people
and sadly the challenges of youth crime and drugs are a huge issue
which cannot be detached both from urban regeneration and the
way that open space is planned, designed and managed. So we want
to make that connection. Lastly, we think that local authorities
and planning authorities must be able to be creative in reallocating
space from public open space to communal open space or private
open space in the interests of focussing on quality. We think
there needs to be a strong emphasis on achieving high levels of
landscape design and on grounds maintenance. Too often, inadequate
budgets for ground maintenance mean that the area is just put
down to grass which is mown and the quality of the open space
is quite unexceptional. We have got a number of examples to which
I can refer to illustrate those points if you are interested.
224. Thank you very much. Would you like to
say anything, Mr Smith?
(Mr Smith) I would like to pull out two words Dickon
mentioned which are "creativity" and "quality"
and refer back to what your last witness was just saying in terms
of urban renaissance. It is integral to achieving towns and cities
in which people want to live to provide the quality of life that
people want, and recreation and open space are essential to that
process. Indeed not just in terms of the urban renaissance but
in the whole general direction of PPG3, if you are looking towards
high density you are looking, arguably, for a shift from private
space to public open space, perhaps a shift from people enjoying
so much personal space to more open space. That becomes even more
important. Again and again we have seen the need for a planning
system to integrate all its various ingredients in terms of transport,
leisure and other facilities and recreational open space is just
one part of that. Our disappointment with the draft PPG17 arises
from its inability to integrate properly with the rest of the
planning system, amongst other things. We have to recognise that
there is competition for the best use of landcompetition
in the most enlightened sense in that you have a limited amount
of brownfield land and it has to be used creatively and properly
to achieve the wider benefits that people are looking for, and
policies which seek to isolate and determine without a sufficient
degree of flexibility as to what a particular land use will be
in the future, which arguably this document does, are not helpful.
We need to be in a position where local authorities and other
stakeholders in the planning system are able to take a look at
how land is being used in our towns and cities and use them much
more creatively in the future.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
225. What is your view of the suggestion in
the draft PPG that developers be asked to contribute to off-site
provision in brown field development rather than on site?
(Mr Newton) As far as developer contributions are
concerned, the fundamental guidance is Circular 1/97 which sets
the parameters around all contributions, whether they be for sport,
education or for affordable housing. There is a presumption in
favour of provision on site. The essential principle is that whatever
is required or whatever contribution is made it is related to
that development and deals with a need that arises from that development.
So I think there is some reservation, a reservation that we hold
and also in government guidance, about off-site contributions.
But I think they are acceptable if they are dealing with a need
that arises from the development. It is another way of addressing
that need. It may not be possible to address it on site. It may
be necessary to address it off site but as long as there is that
relationship with the development.
226. You are not opposed to that suggestion?
(Mr Newton) Not absolutely in principle.
227. Maybe in practice?
(Mr Newton) It depends on the circumstances.
228. What sorts of circumstances would give
you concern or would you agree with?
(Mr Newton) The concernand it is a concern
about the draft PPG17is that the opportunity might be taken
to resolve existing deficiencies in open space and recreation
through the development process rather than tailoring contributions
to the needs associated with the development itself or the needs
that that development creates. So it is a question of trying to
draw on private funding to resolve perhaps cuts or to redress
cuts in public expenditure.
229. Why should that worry you if you still
get the result you want at the end of it?
(Mr Newton) It would worry us because contributions
encompass not just open space but education and affordable housing.
230. With respect, you are not answering my
question. You will presumably enter these sorts of agreements
because you see a positive advantage to whatever you are doing.
(Mr Newton) In terms of getting planning permission,
231. So why you should have an objection if
at the end of it you get whatever it is that was your particular
objective in entering into the agreement?
(Mr Newton) We might not get what we want.
232. No, life is frequently very difficult.
Why should you object if the outcome is one that you find acceptable?
Is your objection in principle to the suggestion that you should
be giving money to local authorities to replace existing forms
of income or is your objection that you might not get what you
want if you cannot dictate exactly down to every dot and comma?
(Mr Newton) We do not expect to be able to dictate
the nature of those requirements.
233. So what is your objection?
(Mr Newton) The objection is we want to see contributions
considered in the round. They have a cumulative effect and damage
the viability of development, particularly when directed towards
more marginal sources of land which have infrastructure or contamination
problems in areas of low market value such as that which the previous
witness referred to in East Manchester where there is limited
value in the land to support a very ambitious package of planning
234. What you are saying is that you do not
want a local authority to demand too much money. The point Mrs
Dunwoody was putting to you is once you have agreed the amount
of money, does it really matter to you whether it is used on site,
close to the site or somewhere else within that urban environment?
(Mr Newton) I am not sure that it does necessarily.
Our concern is about viability and the overall scale of the requirements
and whether they are manageable in terms of delivering a successful
development That is the key issue, that is the fundamental issue,
rather than whether it is off site or on site, I would accept
235. Would you object to contributing to longer
term maintenance costs?
(Mr Newton) There is a concern about that certainly,
firstly, because PPG17 as currently drafted is not consistent
with Circular 1/97 on that point because the basis for planning
obligations is for funding the facility rather than its on-going
maintenance. The provision of maintenance is about small areas
of urban space rather than an on-going commitment. The concern
relates to the burden and the on-going burden which is a bit difficult
for a developer to manage over a period of 10 or 20 years. It
is an open-ended commitment and it is difficult to take that into
account in the equation.
236. But you do that kind of calculation if
you are looking at a scheme which gives you continuing involvment
in maintenance, do you not?
(Mr Newton) I am sorry.
237. You do a calculation before you enter into
a scheme where one of the requirements is that you give a commitment
in terms of maintenance. You do exactly that kind of calculation.
Why should it be different if the calculation relates to open
land as opposed to buildings?
(Mr Newton) I am not sure it is.
238. So you are not saying that you basically
have an objection to the way it is done, you are simply saying,
"I have an objection to something which might commit me to
more money than I want to pay."
(Mr Newton) That is a point.
(Mr Newton) The level of scale of contribution is
the principal issue.