RESOURCES AND FUNDING
42. The 'Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment for
Revision of Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (PPG 17)' which accompanied
that publication of the revised draft, stated that the revised
guidance "should not impose further costs" . We were
told that this is unlikely. Moreover, if it does not impose further
costs, the PPG will have failed because nothing will have changed.
Local authorities do not have the funds available, nor do they
have the skilled staff, to carry out what is currently required
of them and so often fail to meet requirements. They will continue
to fail unless resource implications are considered and addressed.
With the best guidance in the world the desired strategic planning
and implementation will not happen without the supporting resources.
Nor will community involvement be effective and sustainable. As
one witness pointed out:
"there may be a friends group which is more
like an enemies group, so to speak, in respect of some local authorities".
Budgets are increasingly squeezed but space and facilities
often lose out to fundamental services such as social services
The message is clear that if we want high quality open space we
are going to have to pay for it.
43. Some think that spending money on open space
could reduce the need for spending in other areas such as education.
The Urban Parks Forum argued that:
"If you put money into open space, existing
or new, it can decrease your costs elsewhere..."
Ken Worpole of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force
argued that it was easy to see how putting increased money into
sports could reduce health and possibly even crime-related costs
but noted that the same approach is not taken to open space. As
a result open space is underfunded:
"The way you fund it is the same way as if you
decide that you really want Britain to become a worldclass
sporting nation - you put money into it. If you want people to
live in towns and cities and live healthily, you have to put money
in. That has to come from local authorities or central government
or a combination of the two. You either take open space as seriously
as you take indoor space or you just let it go to the dogs."
44. One source of funding is section 106 agreements,
made between local authorities and developers under section 106
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. These are commonly
used to require developers to contribute money to the provision
of new open spaces. Although the use of section 106 funds in this
way can be of great benefit, it was pointed out that there is
little sense in planning authorities requiring developers to provide
or contribute to new open spaces if existing ones in the area
are run-down and unattractive. Developers can contribute to the
enhancement of existing facilities and hence help to regenerate
a whole area. This will be increasingly important as the pressure
to build new housing in urban areas will put greater pressure
on nearby recreation facilities and parks and open spaces. Furthermore,
in some areas, improving the quality of existing open spaces may
well be the best use of any money from planning gain, or whatever
its equivalent is in future. Nevertheless, the use of section
106 agreements to enhance existing space and facilities is not
without problems since the areas with many new developments will
benefit most from section 106 agreements for off-site provision.
This runs the risk of further neglect of already deprived areas
where no new development is taking place. Funds provided through
planning obligations and agreements should make a useful contribution
to enhancing and maintaining existing open spaces, but they do
not dispense with the need for local authority expenditure.
45. While developers can be asked to make payments
for the enhancement of existing spaces, the situation in respect
of paying commuted sums for their maintenance is more difficult
and complex. First, developers may be reluctant to pay commuted
maintenance sums. In written evidence The House Builders Federation
expressed strong opposition in principle. However, when questioned
by the Committee it became clear that witnesses were concerned
about increases in the amount of money they would be asked to
pay, rather than what the money was spent on.
Secondly, there is currently some ambiguity about
whether or not developers can be asked to pay commuted sums to
provide for future maintenance. Paragraph 62 of PPG 17 suggests
that contributions to the maintenance of off-site open space is
justified, but most councils took the view that DoE Circular 1/97
prohibited this. If so, the PPG's recommendations for use of section
106 funds for maintenance conflict with DOE circular 1/97 except
when the off-site provision will be principally of benefit to
the development itself rather than the wider public. The daughter
document of the Planning Green Paper on planning obligations proposes
changes which will allow much greater flexibility for councils
seeking funds for maintenance.
46. Spending on space and facilities is also supplemented
by lottery funding. The Heritage Lottery Fund was widely praised
by many witnesses; on the other hand the New Opportunities Fund
(NOF) was widely criticised. There has been concern about the
reduction in spending on open space and the large delays that
have occurred between allocation and spending of funds. The New
Opportunities Fund allocated £125m for a Green Spaces and
Sustainable Communities programme in 1998. Only £3.8m has
been actually been spent so far and the details of this are given
in the table below. The reason for this fiasco, we were told was
the long process of distributing money to Award Partners who allocate
the money to actual projects.
New Opportunities Fund Green Spaces and
Communities Awards before October 2001
First grant panel 29 October 2001. Agreed year one allocation: (at least)
10 awards made to date, representing:
Proposals for project development grants under consideration.
44 awards made so far, representing:
29 awards made so far, representing:
Playing fields and community green spaces
11 applications for school play grounds strategies and 9 playing fields strategies approved, representing:
Green routes, safe routes
It has been agreed that the total funding committed to Sutrans will support the following projects: 14 green routes, 30 Safe Routes to Stations, 12 Home Zone projects and Safe Routes to Schools (60 bike sheds and 50 walking buses).
Scottish National Heritage and Forward Scotland
First panel awarded 7 grants: representing:
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Scottish Land Fund
22 awards made so far, representing: £662,754
First panel meeting planned for 30 October.
Creating Common Ground Consortium
First panel meeting planned for 14th November.
47. In its new programme, Transforming Communities NOF
has reduced planned spending on open space. Of the £159m
provided for this programme, £10m is earmarked for "community
drugs rehabilitation", £50m for development of sources
of renewable electricity generation; and of the remaining £99m
half is to be spent on "community waste projects". This
leaves less than £50m over three years for anything like
green space. Even this relatively small amount is to cover not
just green space, but all open space, cycle routes, community
buildings and local heritage projects. One witness commented:
"let's hope the NOF money will filter through to those projects,
but we still have to face the question of how do we fund our mainstream
portfolio of parks and civic squares, and that has to come through
48. In view of the difficulties faced, many witnesses argued for
an open spaces agency to lobby for open space, to raise funds
for its enhancement and improvement and to advise on it. Our predecessor
Committee had made a similar recommendation (for a Parks Agency)
in its report into Town and Country Parks. Alan Barber of The
Institute for Leisure and Amenity management (ILAM) told us:
"The problem that we do not have a national agency.....Sport
England is mentioned 17 times...[in the PPG]".
He and others argued that such an agency could usefully provide
guidance on the production of open space strategies
and went on to tell the Committee:
"I am quite sure that the decline that has taken place in
green spaces that are managed by local authorities would not have
been anything like as severe if the equivalent of a Sport England
or a Countryside Agency had been at work".
Ken Worpole pointed out that Sport England:
"is a professional organisation with professional researchers
able to rally lots of evidence in support of its case. We do not
have the same kind of capacity for the environmental case or the
social case. There is not only a Sports Lottery Fund but sport
seems to be getting a substantial part of the New Opportunities
Fund as well, so they are getting two bites of the cherry. So
it is a powerful lobby ".
The Urban Parks Forum , which is largely funded by DTLR, is the
closest organisation to a national agency but it does not consider
itself able to adequately fulfil the role:
"We are trying to be that but we have not got the financial
resources of Sport England".
49. We were appalled that the New Opportunities Fund is reducing
spending on open spaces before previously allocated money has
been spent and its impact measured. The Committee is persuaded
by the evidence from witnesses that one of the major problems
afflicting space and facilities is lack of adequate revenue funding.
We support the use of section 106 funds both to enhance and to
maintain existing spaces. We also agree with the Government that
local authorities should spend more on the management of open
space and facilities but this must be facilitated by central Government.
We conclude that the creation of a well-funded open spaces agency
would be beneficial in assisting greater collaboration between
planners and managers and, with the help of an articulate chairman,
could secure higher levels of funding for open space. The Committee
was impressed with, and recognises the important role played by
Sport England's Chair, Trevor Brooking, in drawing attention to
and raising the profile of sport. The Committee recommends
(a) local authorities be given sufficient funds to
allow them to spend more on, and have the staff to see to, the
management of open spaces in their care; without this nothing
(b) as part of the reform of the planning system, the
Government permit funds arising from planning obligations to be
used for the enhancement, management and maintenance of off-site
facilities and open space; whatever takes the place of section
106 agreements should be used in ways which are transparent and
consistent to give greater clarity to developers;
(c) the New Opportunities Fund increase spending on
open space (in line with the Urban White Paper) rather than cutting
spending as the Transforming Communities Initiative proposes;
(d) the Urban Green Spaces Task Force consider the
desirability and feasibility of establishing an advocate and champion
for urban open space spaces, which will need significant resources
and a status comparable to that of a Non-Departmental Public Body.