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

Examination of Witness (Questions 520-539)



  520. You said what you want PPG17 to achieve, are there any specific things in PPG as it stands now that you would like to change?
  (Mr Caborn) There are a number which we have drafted, Mr Mackenzie can go through some of those in detail. What we have been saying, first of all, is to take the division out between open spaces and sport facilities. I think an artificial barrier has been driven in for some reason, which I cannot quite understand. I think the decision available to the local authority which is inside the democratic process which underpins the whole of the planning regime in this country, I think that is absolutely wrong. What we have a responsibility to do as government is to try to guide through various PPGs what the government policy is and how we want that delivered but the actual delivery of that will be at a local level. When one looks back, it is about 10 years since there has been a revision of the PPG17, clearly the language was weak, it was not proactive enough and it was not addressing the issues we are facing today.


  521. Some people said that the language was stronger than the existing one.
  (Mr Caborn) It might have been on that draft. What we what we are trying to re-draft is a much more proactive document, one that is going to deliver. Against the background of the White Paper on the Urban Task Force, and then the Rogers Report, the urban renaissance that is what we are trying to deliver, the concept within that, whether it be sport or open spaces. I am hoping now that the PPG17, the revised one, its language will be much more proactive in those areas. I am pretty convinced it will be.

  522. Mr Mackenzie, do you have a long shopping list?
  (Mr Mackenzie) It is fairly long.

  523. If you could leave us a written copy?
  (Mr Mackenzie) We did not have it as formal as that. They are the same sort of issues as earlier.

  524. Is it like my shopping list?
  (Mr Mackenzie) I have not seen your shopping list. I would think it has many of the same issues that the Committee has hit upon. Definitions needs to be clearer. There is some very strong language in the text in relation to sport, which was referred to before, by the previous evidence sessions, which we as the drafters know where it is buried but obviously it is hard for those who it is meant to guide to understand.

  525. It sounds a bit vague, it is like get something for Sunday lunch. It is not very specific.
  (Mr Mackenzie) We have specific ideas which we obviously have to discuss with our colleagues in detail to get the wider picture on planning. There is a limit, as the minister has said, to what the planning system can deliver and a balance has to be struck as to where we put the solutions in the planning guidance revised draft of PPG17, where it is best put and best practice guidance and where it is left to individual discussions by advisers such as Sport England with the relevant local authorities.

Mr Betts

  526. Could I come on to the specifics of your department's interests and how they may be reflected in PPG17. In particular we talked earlier with Lord Falconer about the need to try and link up planning policy and managing issues with the wider policies of local authorities, do you think specifically that the requirement for local authorities to produce local cultural strategies should be referred to you as a requirement?
  (Mr Caborn) In terms of the local cultural strategies they were given a very broad remit and I think the cultural strategies were basically there to get an audit of what we have. It is really incredible when you think about it, in terms of the cultural industry and the whole evolvement of cultural policies it was not based upon what people knew were there at that time, therefore it was about an audit. In my Department we discussed it with the chairs of those cultural consortiums, about how we would move forward. In specific terms of the sports facilities and the open spaces I think we would want to make sure that the local authorities do their needs assessment and that is their responsibility in PPG17. This is one of the key areas, it has to be pushing very hard at the local authorities to do their needs assessment for open spaces, for playing fields and for sporting facilities. Once we have the assessment then we can speak to them in a much more effective way than has been the way in the past. I do not think it bears down necessarily on what is required in PPG17. I would not necessarily refer to that.

  527. PPG17 should have a requirement to produce the strategy for open space and sports facilities as far as you are concerned?
  (Mr Caborn) I think it has to guide a local authority with planning authority at the end of the day to be able to deliver what the government wants in terms of sports and open spaces strategy, that is what it is there to do.

  528. That should be specifically in the guidance?
  (Mr Caborn) In terms of developing a needs assessment.


  529. Surely something like a bandstand, is it not much nicer to have a bandstand in the park with a band playing on it or not?
  (Mr Caborn) I would not disagree with that.

  530. If you are going to take some notice of the cultural strategy, the availability of local bands to perform in public spaces.
  (Mr Caborn) I do not think you can determine that by planning guidance I think that is more about policy. In the terms of playing on a bandstand I do not think that is planning guidance, it is about the facilities that are there.

  531. There is no point in putting the facilities there unless they are going to be used. You have to have some match between a cultural strategy and what is available. One or two people have talked about open air theatres, it is very nice to have an open air theatre in a park but unless somebody is going to use it or it is not going to be raining it is a bit of a waste of space.
  (Mr Caborn) I think that is true and I think the government can be criticised for not making those linkages across. Let us be clear what the people in the PPGs are there for, the reason they are there is to guide the planning. They cannot resolve all of the problems by planning guidance. You can also have the supporting documentation to that, but then it has to link, as I said, to what we are doing in terms of the investment strategy as well. It is about discussing it with people like Sport England and what they are trying to deliver as far as the broader strategy of sport is concerned, of which planning is part of that, it is not the sole driver of it.

Dr Pugh

  532. Can I take you now to the New Opportunities Fund. When we spoke to the DCMS officials they were not totally forthcoming on this subject and in particular expenditure by the New Opportunities Fund on green space, in particular the Transforming Communities Initiative. I have the figures correct, think we are talking about £50 million over three years. Compared with all of the other funding for sport there is very, very little money there available for green spaces, as we understand it. Have you a view on that and will you be representing your view to the New Opportunities Fund?
  (Mr Caborn) We will get the two things right, the Green Space Initiative is one and the Transforming of the Communities Initiative is the other one. The Transforming of the Community Initiative is a fund of about £159 million. As far as the green space is concerned, as I understand it, there was some concern—

  533. £159 million is going to be spent on green spaces.
  (Mr Caborn) No, the breakdown of that is £49.5 million for the projects of Quality of Life for Local Community, including the promotion of healthier lifestyles by improving the appearance of the local environment in urban and rural areas. £49.5 million for projects for community waste and recycling. £50 million for projects to assist in regeneration and £10 million for community rehabilitation of drug users, and that is in Scotland. That is the £159 million which I just referred to on transforming communities. As far as the Green Space Initiative is concerned another £125 million.

  534. You are satisfied that that is enough. In a sense, the figures we have are the figures the analysis provided for me, we are only left with very, very little, something like £50 million.
  (Mr Caborn) On the green spaces.

  535. Yes.


  536. Could we have a green spaces figure for the next year?
  (Mr Caborn) 125 million over—
  (Mr Mackenzie) The way the New Opportunities Fund operates is that it has—

Dr Pugh

  537. We are talking about the Transforming Communities Initiative, the figure should have been £125 million but the problem there, of which you are quite well aware, is that very little of that was actually spent.
  (Mr Mackenzie) No. The New Opportunities Fund the way it operates there is a long lead-in time which is required by the legislation and the policy to widely consult on the best use of the funds. That consultation includes debates in both chambers of the House and enables the New Opportunities Fund to decide on the basis of wide consultation the best allocation of its funds. £50 million for green spaces within transforming communities you can argue whether that is big enough or not.

  538. That is what is precisely being offered, is it your view that that is big enough?
  (Mr Mackenzie) My view is that it is a sizeable start. £50 million compared to what has gone before is a significant contribution.

  539. But compared to what is spent on sport, where there are other specialist funds, is that enough?
  (Mr Caborn) We have three quarters of a billion pounds just going into PE and education, it is not just all about the sports facilities, it is the infrastructure through the local education authorities, obviously the spin-off into that is the communities as well. Then we have the 120 odd million which is being spent by Sport England. As I said a little earlier to the Committee this had been an area massively under invested in.

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