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


Examination of Witness (Questions 500-516)

LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON QC AND MS SALLY KEEBLE MP

WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001

  500. What will happen to a local authority if it does not do this?
  (Ms Keeble) I get the assumption that local authorities are not going to act in the best interests of their communities, which I have to say I would not accept. Whilst some might fail for a number of reasons to provide the kind of plans we have been talking about, I would not accept that they would wilfully go against the interests of their own community actually. I think, also, that the higher profile and the more emphasis that is given nationally on these issues then the more encouragement there is for them to improve their provision.

  501. Just coming on to the issue of various national bodies, I think we were quite surprised to hear witnesses tell us that bodies like Sport England and the Urban Green Space's Task Force had not been consulted about this draft guidance.
  (Ms Keeble) I would not say that is true, actually.

  502. The witnesses told us it is true.
  (Ms Keeble) The Task Force is going to look at the guidance.

  503. It has not been consulted yet.
  (Ms Keeble) There have been some difficulties previously prior to last year—

Chairman

  504. What you are saying is that there are new people driving the process forward.
  (Ms Keeble) Thank you. It is being looked at now, it is going to be dealt with by one of the working groups and there are active discussions between the department and Sport England. Sport England is represented on the working group of the Task Force which is looking at PPG 17. Sport England is also going to be represented now on the Task Force itself, and I know there have been discussions between the department and Sport England about the PPG because I have been involved in them. So it is the case that there are discussions going on. They are all joined up.

Mr Betts

  505. Many of the issues that have been raised are detailed, obviously. What Sport England would like is for the level at which they have to be consulted on planning applications, such as the size of the pitches, to be reduced to 0.2 hectares. You are saying your officials will sit down with their officials and go through these sorts of issues and try and get some agreement on them.
  (Ms Keeble) There is discussion. Sport England is represented on the Task Force—both on the working group looking at PPG 17 and on the Task Force itself. Sport England is also talking to officials actively about the PPG and about some of the wording and some of the emphasis. The issue about the size of the spaces is obviously going to be a difficult one to decide. What I will just say is that in terms of the Task Force one of the issues that we are looking at is the issue of smaller spaces, as you might have gathered, and I think if we are looking at smaller spaces we have to look at smaller spaces in terms of play as well as smaller spaces in terms of sport and see what is appropriate for protection of smaller spaces—be they used for sport or for different types of activity.

Chairman

  506. A fairly small point, but we did take evidence in the last Parliament about the problem of travelling fairs. Nothing is really said in PPG 17 about that but there is the issue about them being able to use public spaces, particularly traditional spaces in towns for the fairs themselves, and there is the problem of winter quarters. Would it not have been helpful if PPG 17 had at least said a little bit about it? You are suggesting that different people were drawing up PPG 17 initially, but one of them did give us a promise in this Committee that something would be said in PPG 17.
  (Ms Keeble) That promise has been kept. It is page 14, paragraph 2.

  507. Can you tell me what it says?
  (Ms Keeble) "As a community resource, as a place for congregating, for holding community events or periodic activities such as fetes and travelling fairs".

  Mrs Dunwoody: Gosh, that is strong. Nobody is going to ignore that.

Chairman

  508. That involves the open space being used for the travelling fair, but what about winter quarters?
  (Ms Keeble) We have not got winter quarters. I take that point. I would, also, I think, take the inference that you might feel that reference could be strengthened.

  Mrs Dunwoody: Ever so slightly. It might have, perhaps, a whole sentence to itself.

Chairman

  509. It could not really be weaker. Briefly—and this is a big issue—is PPG 17 really consistent with PPG 2 on the Green Belt?
  (Ms Keeble) I am sure it is. I was thinking about the actual policies. Were you concerned about a particular aspect?

  510. If I could help you out, yes. Particularly taking a conurbation like Greater Manchester, there are some very attractive green lungs (?) which are now green belt, but there is always pressure for finding new facilities for sports facilities. If you have put some sport facilities on to those they would stay green in their nature but if you put up some other sports facilities on to them they would really be much more like a built environment. Is there a conflict?
  (Ms Keeble) Yes, there is an issue about provision of stadia and built facilities. There is also an issue which has come up, particularly in relation to the green belt, which is about floodlighting as well.

  511. There is floodlighting, all-weather pitches as well as stadia.
  (Ms Keeble) We have argued in this that the decisions around built stadium and about floodlighting are, in particular, the issues about resolving conflict over use of land, and that is, in particular, what the planning process is intended to achieve—in particular the planning control process. So we would argue that there is not inconsistency between the two guidance notes, that it is precisely those types of conflicts which they are intended to resolve.

Sir Paul Beresford

  512. Does it matter that there is this conflict? Do you want to leave it so that local authorities can assess[1]

  (Ms Keeble) They have to have tools to be able to resolve conflict over the use of space.

  513. It is called local government, they are going to make a decision.
  (Ms Keeble) That is right. What we have given them is a tool to resolve those particular conflicts, but that is what the decision-making at local level is designed to achieve.

  514. So it does not matter.
  (Ms Keeble) The planning process and making planning decisions is entirely about resolving, often, conflicting views about how particular areas of land should be used.

Chairman

  515. It should give the developers, and others in the community, certainty.
  (Ms Keeble) Yes, but there will still be sharp conflicts about the use of space. Part of the whole debate about this PPG has been about the use of green space and whether it should be used for sports facilities or whether it should be used for play areas and such like. That is one of the issues why the debate around this PPG has been quite sharp. In terms of the green belt and the protection of it, there is no inconsistency between the guidance here and the green belt policy.
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The green belt guidance document, PPG 2, does says it is not inappropriate on the green belt to build essential facilities for sport and recreation, and that point is echoed in PPG 17. So the draft of PPG 17 is simply trying to pick up what the green belt PPG says as well.
  (Ms Keeble) If I can just add, there is also some very tough guidance in here about the assessments that should be made about locations of stadium, even in green field let alone green belt areas, and that it should not have the enabling development if that can be placed elsewhere, despite the pressures of financial support. So it is quite tough on the location of built stadiums.

  516. So I gather there are going to be quite a few changes between the draft and the final version?
  (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There certainly are, yes.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence.


1   Note by Sir Paul Beresford: their local situation and be allowed to make a local decision. Back


 
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