Examination of Witness (Questions 440-459)|
QC AND MS
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
440. That is a good question. This is a somewhat
artificial distinction because some squares will have elements
of paving and greenery.
(Ms Keeble) To an extent.
441. Let me give you an example. Outside is
Parliament Square. What does that count as? Pavement round, grass
in the middle and then some sort of hard area with the statues
(Ms Keeble) I would call that a green space.
442. Does your document?
(Ms Keeble) Obviously there is an element of interpretation.
However, I would not include within this general paved areas,
pavements, home zones, because those are not the areas which by
and large require protection under the planning system because
they are roads and pavements.
443. So Parliament Square would be in but Trafalgar
Square would be out?
(Ms Keeble) What we are not talking about, for example,
is whether or not you turn Piccadilly Circus back to a roundabout.
Those are not the issues. This is about creating open space that
people can use for a variety of formal and informal recreation
and leisure purposes. The Task Force has been looking at definitions
of green spaces and those include some quite difficult areas that
again people might not automatically think would be included,
like on cemeteries which are sometimes used now for some recreational
purposes, and wildlife areas and nature areas within towns and
areas such as that. But it would not generally include areas which
you would regard as streets and roadways.
444. Excluding streets and roadways you still
said that there will be issues of interpretation and within the
planning law that is the one thing planners will seek to avoid,
that hard edge decisions are made which sometimes have legal consequences.
Is it rather strange to have a PPG that is going to need a measure
(Ms Keeble) It is a draft PPG and, as I said, there
are some conflicts already in the different definitions included.
There is a different one at the bottom of the introduction from
what there is a bit higher up so the definitions are obviously
something that we will have to clarify.
445. I am sorry to interrupt, but you moving
your eyebrows up and down, Lord Falconer, does not really go on
to the record.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I was doing that by reference
to the fact that what Sally is saying is reflecting what has been
said all along, that this document needs tightening up and what
Mr Pugh is saying about it being a bad idea in a planning document
to end up with a legal minefield and debating precisely what the
boundaries of the definition are is absolutely right. I hope I
reflected that in my opening statement in saying in effect that
this document does need some clarification.
Chairman: I am just keen to get your eyebrows
on the record.
446. Could I move on to another specific criticism
which has been voiced here? One is that open space means green
space but more narrowly that open space primarily is thought in
terms of sport and recreational areas, too much emphasis on that,
too little on the other incidental open spaces.
(Ms Keeble) It is certainly the case that there are
types of green spaces that have a much stronger lobby about them
and I think the well established traditional parks and sporting
facilities have a much stronger protection than some of the smaller
informal areas which are highly valued by the community, well
used and need to be protected and developed. Those are some of
the issues that the Task Force is looking at.
447. You would accept that the PPG should not
be a function of the strength of the lobbying groups?
(Ms Keeble) Absolutely not. If you are talking specifically
about the PPG the sporting lobby is also critical of the PPG and
I do think that there is some difficulty, and again this needs
to be sorted out before we get the final PPG, of making absolutely
clear that there are different types of green spaces and open
spaces and make clear how each one is valued and how the different
types should be dealt with so that it is clear that we protect
the small spaces as well as the larger ones and also that we are
able to look at improving the smaller spaces and creating the
smaller spaces and not just the larger ones.
448. On the different types point there is obviously
well designed space and there is poorly designed and perhaps unusable
space. Can the PPG do anything to ensure that the latter does
not happen and the former does?
(Ms Keeble) What we need to make sure of is that there
is proper provision for the smaller neighbourhood open space as
well as the larger traditional ones. The reality is that in a
lot of developments the inclusion of the small spaces is particularly
449. It was not just the smaller/larger distinction.
It was really the distinction between space that is of value and
worth having and space that is not worth having, space that is
well designed and space that is not. The PPG you think does all
it can to assist that?
(Ms Keeble) I think the PPG could be clearer about
the different types of open space and the way in which they should
be assessed and should be used.
450. My concernI put it rather bluntlyis
that if you get a very badly designed, practically useless bit
of open space which is very difficult to maintain as well, it
could be afforded a degree of planning protection but it is probably
not worth getting that for it. On the other hand there may be
circumstances where it would be better to remove it and to provide
something else. Do you think that the PPG provides an en bloc
protection of open space or is it going to be flexible about design
and maintenance issues?
(Ms Keeble) What the PPG makes clear is that if a
development proposal comes along for a piece of land which is
not currently used which might be one of these informal spaces,
assessments can be made of the use that is made of that space
and whether or not it should be built on and how that space should
then be used. What you are talking about is what should local
authorities do about small spaces which are not used and can become
an environmental problem. I think that is for the local authority
to look at its land use more generally. It is not about what happens
in terms of when an application comes along for the use fo a particular
piece of land.
451. Lord Falconer, in one of your replies earlier
you implied that there is a separation between the planning of
open space in terms of land use and the management of that space.
If that separation is maintained does that not mean that we are
developing an inbuilt obsolescence?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There certainly is a separation
between the two in the way it is administered. Planning is dealt
with in local authorities entirely separately from the delivery
of services that will include the maintenance of public spaces.
There has plainly got to be some separation between the two because
the planning function is different and has particular obligations
that have to be delivered. There has to be a joint understanding
between the two bits of the local authority as to what the basic
objectives are in relation to open space and recreational facilities.
452. Do you not feel that there should be some
further guidance on linking up planners and managers in terms
of open space?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think there should be
guidance about planning policies connecting in with the broader
policies for local authorities and anybody else responsible for
recreational space and I think that is an important issue to develop
in the planning Green Paper. It is difficult to see what further
guidance one could think of to say what role the planning department
should play by reference to as it were the maintenance department
of the local authority.
453. Yet in the draft PPG, paragraphs 38 and
39, there is reference to management so that has been recognised,
so why no recommendation if the problem has been identified?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because the improvement
in relation to management will be very important in determining
what you have already got in the local authority area. One of
the things that PPG is specifically identifying is that you have
to assess need and you can only assess need by identifying what
you have got and how usable it is.
454. But I am talking about maintaining a facility
once it has been made available. Are you satisfied that planning
in terms of land use can identify land for green space but then
not give any consideration as to how that might be maintained?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously considerations
should be given to how it should be maintained and local authorities
should be encouraged as much as possible to maintain them as much
as possible. There is a cross-cutting review going on preparatory
to the comprehensive spending review which across government will
be looking at how you ensure that open space is well managed and
you want to give as much guidance as you can in relation to that.
The message I am trying to get across is that planning departments
and local authorities as a whole should have a joint aim in relation
to what they are seeking to produce in relation to the management
of green space.
455. But you have said that where you think
they are not doing it properly you are going to name and shame
them by linking their budgets with their level of performance.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In relation to the maintenance
of green spacecan you tell me the bit you are referring
456. I am just interested because on the one
hand you seem to be saying to the Committee, "We should sort
all these things out which make it simpler". On the other
hand we are saying to you that what you are proposing is not clear
and you may deal with it as you yourself suggested by some kind
of supplementary evidence, and then, when you are talking to the
planning authorities themselves you say there are more than 800
pages of national guidance on planning. We can make a start by
reducing that burden." I am not very clever and I am a little
confused. Are you going to reduce the amount of supplementary
guidance or are you going to increase it, are we going to make
it clearer or are we just going to make it a bit more brutal?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What we are seeking to
do is to try to shorten as much as possible the material like
PPG17 which is actually the material considerations in relation
457. Shorten it. Not clarify it; shorten it.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) By shortening it we hope
to clarify it. The principles should be clear.
458. Ah, well, the things are connected?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are connected but
they are not necessarily synonymous.
459. No. That had occurred to me.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In addition to clarifying
it and shortening it we will also seek to produce good practice
guidance which will not have the same status in the planning system
but will help local authorities deliver the aims. For example,
in relation to PPG3 which is the housing national guidance, that
is a much shorter documents than other similar documents but it
has got something that goes with it which is in effect a guidance
as to how local authorities can implement it.