Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-113)|
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
100. Briefly on this, I think I share some of
your concerns about imposing national standards right across the
board. I think what we are observing is there is no guidance on
providing for young people and teenagers, and some guidance I
think would be very helpful in terms of brokering local 106 agreements
with developers. And would you not regard it, if I can possibly
take you back, as one of the sort of omissions of the paper that
it does not actually mention young people and teenagers?
(Mr Ellis) Yes, I think good practice guidance is
important. Certainly, it is something we are considering at the
moment as to whether or not we support the policy in the PPG with
a good practice guidance that will help deliver the policy, bringing
together, if you like, what is out there already; not setting
a particular way forward but drawing together what has been good
practice, to actually help local authorities come to a view locally
as to what is right. The focus of the PPG is on all the needs
in the community. I do not think it rules out any section of that
community; or, as you were saying, specifically by name, by description,
rules in a particular section of the community. If it would be
helpful to do so, it is something that we can obviously think
about. In my view, it is important that local authorities think
about the needs of all their population, from the very youngest
children through to the oldest in the communities. That is why
we look at sport, open space and recreation together, because
there is a demand from the community, which can be different,
which can actually change as one moves from childhood through
the teenage years to somewhat older. It is important the local
authority, in planning for its community, thinks about all its
101. Obviously, one size never fits all. In
Tower Hamlets, a lot of people feel virtually under siege by gangs
of teenagers. If you are saying that you are not going to give
specific guidance to local authorities, what are the signposts
that you might be giving them, which you mentioned?
(Mr Ellis) What I meant to say, it was in the PPG
we do not want to actually lose sight of the policy by including
specific guidance on particular issues which is better placed
in a good practice guide. The Government is very keen to ensure
that the planning system plays its part in designing out crime,
designing in community safety. We are committed, through the Urban
White Paper, to deliver updated planning guidance on the sort
of issue that you have mentioned, to indeed be supported by good
practice guidance. We want to ensure that local authorities, in
drawing up their planning policies, and in actually looking at
applications in the context of development control, take proper
account of crime, of community safety. And we will issue good
practice guidance to actually help them to demonstrate what can
work, so they do not make a situation worse.
102. But I thought the planning system was supposed
to give certainty. Now supposing there is a new housing development,
and as part of it the local authority says, "We want a big
space provided on that development for teenagers to hang out."
Now that will be very attractive for the teenagers to hang out,
it will not be very popular with the people who are going to buy
the houses closest to it. Surely, the people buying the houses
should have that certainty, when they buy them, that next to or
near to their houses there is going to be a spot where teenagers
are encouraged to hang out. Now that is no good putting it into
the guidance, you want it actually in the planning process, do
(Mr Ellis) The guidance, Chairman, is there for application
through the planning process, coming back to the development plan,
and making sure we actually get the policies in that right, to
be applied consistently through planning applications. You are
absolutely right, it is important that there is certainty of expectation.
But one of the things I had hoped good practice guidance would
make clear, in supporting the Government's policy for planning
out crime, is that the way you design new development can either
design in problems or design out problems. If you are actually
going to organise your hang-out space right next to the sort of
housing, for example, sheltered accommodation, which would cause
aggravation, you have got to get the design right.
Chairman: I think most people would guess that
it would not be best next to the sheltered accommodation; on the
other hand, they would probably make less fuss than some people.
Christine Russell: Chairman, I was also going
to ask about hang-out shelters, and you have asked the question.
103. Very quickly, now. First of all, you have
heard the earlier evidence from Sport England about them wanting
to be called as consultees, if you get rid of smaller little areas
where football can be played for the under-11s; what about that?
(Mr Ellis) That is obviously something that we would
need to ponder, that Ministers would need to think about; forgive
that response to your question. Again, I come back to the issue
that if the strategy is properly worked out and clearly set out
in the development plan
104. No; they were just simply asking, can they
be consultees, they are not wanting to pre-empt it, all they want
to know is that that bit of ground is going to disappear as a
play area, they want to assess it as to whether it is important
and be consultees?
(Mr Ellis) It can be done.
105. It can be done, obviously, but will it
(Mr Ellis) I cannot, as you know, Chairman, commit
my Ministers. They will want to balance the gains to be had from
extending the consultation with the extra time it would take potentially
on delivering on planning applications, delivering on planning
proposals, what that extra might cause. So, as you know, I cannot
actually commit my Ministers on that.
106. Right. The English Sports Council did that
document 'The Effectiveness of Planning Policy Guidance on Sport
and Recreation'; it came up with a set of recommendations. You
have ignored them all, have you not?
(Mr Ellis) No. I am quite safe in saying no.
107. That is a decisive answer.
(Mr Ellis) Certainly, our impression, obviously it
is in the eyes of the beholder, is that we have actually met,
either wholly or in part, the vast majority. Perhaps if I tackle
the question the other way round; which ones have we actually
rejected. We rejected the recommendation that PPG17 should state
the basic criteria for standards for open space; we rejected that
for the reasons I have articulated this morning. We think, subject
to hearing views, that this matter is best carried out at the
local level. We also rejected recommendations, for example, that
there should be a specific policy on, I have it written down here,
golf driving ranges. We do not want to have specific policies
on all the forms of recreation, sport, that we actually, as a
community, participate in, because you can imagine the PPG if
we did. You would never actually define the policy clearly as
to the overall approach if we went down the path of having a catalogue.
108. New Opportunities Fund. It has not really
come up with much money, has it, for enhancing green spaces?
(Ms Drew) You would not expect me to make a comment
on the quantum of money, but it is not a bad sum of money for
New Opportunities green spaces, they have got £125 million;
it all depends on what kind of context you are talking about.
But £125 million is £125 million, I would not say it
was a particularly mean sum.
109. Do you think it has been well spent?
(Ms Drew) I would not be able to comment on how the
New Opportunities Fund acts; they are an independent Lottery distributor.
110. I did not ask you what they would say,
I was just asking you whether you thought it was well spent?
(Ms Drew) I am not in a position to comment about
how it is being spent at the moment. The division of it, perhaps
I can just make a comment, as Sport England said, they are award
partners with the New Opportunities Fund, and they are getting
£31.5 million as an award partner, some of which can go towards,
for example, helping local authorities prepare playing-field strategies.
So that is an example, it seems to me, of a very valuable use
of that money; £10.5 million goes towards the purchase of
new playing-fields; 10.5 towards the improvement of existing playing-fields.
Again, I would have thought, admirable objectives in themselves.
111. Home Zones, as far as children's play is
concerned, are they any substitute for proper open space for children?
(Mr Ellis) I think they are complementary. I think
it very much depends upon where you are in your childhood. I can
certainly, if I might think personally, see advantages for my
youngest child of a Home Zone. It means they can actually go outside
safely and play with their friends there. I worry less about the
effect of traffic on them. My elder boy has an ability to kick
a football. I would see Home Zones potentially being dangerous
there for my neighbours' windows. I certainly feel in that case
that we are looking for the proper facility of wider open space.
So it is a case of a mixed portfolio for the advantage of the
community, I would have thought, Chairman.
112. As a child, I managed to play both football
and cricket in the street, cricket with a 'corky'; there was no
problem, or there was not a serious problem, with the neighbours'
windows. But, today, the number of cars that would be parked in
a Home Zone would just make it impossible, would it not?
(Mr Ellis) I think that would depend, in part, on
the design of the Home Zone. I think it is important that we actually
think of the contribution Home Zones make to creating a place
where communities grow, rather than always thinking about our
streets as thoroughfares for traffic. I think it is important
that in designing new places where we live we think more constructively
about how we actually design for the motorcar. And that indeed,
Chairman, is the thrust of PPG3, where the emphasis is to design
around the needs of people and not around the needs of vehicular
113. Finally, do you think the planning system
has made any contribution to the fiasco of the national football
stadium, or the national athletics stadium?
(Mr Wilkes) Not yet!
Chairman: Well, on that very cheery note, thank
you very much for your evidence.