Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-27)|
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
20. In your written evidence, in paragraph 14,
you talk about the importance of guidelines should be linked to
the PPG to take future maintenance costs into account; and then
later in your evidence, paragraph 19, you talk about the importance
of local planning policies identifying how Section 106 agreements
can be used. Now that seems a little at odds with what you would
like to see in the draft PPG to deal with what you identify as
very important issues of maintenance and management?
(Mr West) I think there are two points here. First
of all, the PPG can reasonably include something which encourages
local authorities to take a proactive approach towards the management
and maintenance of open spaces, and there are good precedents
for that. PPG15, for example, includes precisely that sort of
general exhortation to good practice in management and maintenance,
that could be supported, as Sir Neil has said, by detailed good
practice guidance. Within the PPG itself, it can certainly address
the use of Section 106 agreements, the use, indeed, of Section
215 notices by a local authority in order to enforce the tidying
up of land, which might not be in local authority ownership, which
is a critical part of public open space. There are specific things
which can be delivered through the planning system, and it certainly
needs to pick up that, and discuss the pros and cons. There are
cons to the use of Section 106 agreements, of course, as well
as pros; one of the possible problems is that they have been used
to create new public open space which local authorities do not
have the resources to maintain adequately, and that can lead to
a diminution in the quality of the management and maintenance
of some existing open space. The PPG should require local authorities
to think about these issues before using Section 106 agreements,
instead of rushing in to use them in cases where perhaps it is
unwise to do so. It comes back to the importance of strategies.
We are absolutely sold on the importance of encouraging local
authorities to take a strategic approach, and then to think that
through right across the whole range of local authority responsibilities.
21. But these are practical issues, are they
(Mr West) Yes.
22. And so you are saying that you would like
the specific points you have just mentioned to be included in
(Mr West) Very much so, yes.
Sir Paul Beresford
23. Mr Coleman, what is the Countryside Agency's
opinion of the treatment in the draft PPG of the urban fringe
and Green Belts, and do you feel it gives adequate protection
to greenfield sites?
(Mr Coleman) It is not PPG2, so there is a Green Belt
PPG that obviously deals very much with the appropriateness of
different types of recreation in the Green Belt type of urban
fringe, and we would not expect that to be dealt with here simply
24. Do they integrate, or do they conflict,
(Mr Coleman) We have not detected a very blatant conflict,
we would have drawn attention to it if we saw it; however, sorry,
you asked a much wider question, I was answering part of it on
the Green Belt. The urban fringe in general, we would have preferred
to see much more treatment of the importance of the urban fringe
and the countryside around towns and the links to make between
that and open space within the urban fabric; there is huge potential
for using the planning system creatively, not just to prevent
inappropriate development, and, of course, that is important,
but to promote and encourage the right sort of development which
can enable the urban fringe and the countryside around towns to
be used much better for many types of recreation, whether it involves
built sports facilities or open land. So we have advocated for
some time a PPG dealing only with the countryside around towns.
I think the argument has not been accepted, clearly, but we believe
that it is an issue of sufficient importance, and the planning
system offers sufficient potential to provide solutions, that
it should be dealt with much more.
25. Could that be integrated into this?
(Mr Coleman) It could be developed, yes; there could
be a much longer treatment of urban fringe and countryside around
26. There was a certain amount of sensitivity
in the south east because much though the areas around London
feel as though they are the urban fringe, they would rather not
be. Have we a prospect of a conflict where we will have this draft
PPG becoming a PPG, and yet, on the other hand, we have the previous
Secretary of State saying "You're going to build tens of
thousands of houses, and, by the way, we've got a few applications
from incinerators, and so forth, on greenfield, open space sites,"
etc? So there is a distinct conflict, not helped by the fact that
one of the Ministers recently has made it quite clear that he
anticipates the encroachment of some of the tens of thousands
of houses that he is demanding, out of Surrey, Sussex, and so
on, will be onto greenfield sites, perhaps even Green Belt sites?
(Mr Coleman) I do not see that the content of this
PPG makes that problem any more difficult or any easier to resolve.
Clearly, as I say, in the situations you are talking of, which
is metropolitan Green Belt sites, PPG2 is the most heavily fought
over, along with, obviously, the approved development plans also.
The fact that a PPG17 encourages planning authorities to think
about recreational use of urban fringe and Green Belt land and
what this might require within the constraints of the PPG2 policies
I do not think will make it any easier or more difficult.
27. But on this Green Belt issue, if you put
a football pitch on you could almost say it stays green, could
you not; if you start to put changing rooms and other facilities
around it then it starts to be an urban development. Do you think
the PPG makes it clear as to how that issue should be addressed?
(Mr Coleman) No, it does not, and I think that is
an inbuilt difficulty of all change, not just things that require
planning permission, in urban fringe and Green Belt areas. Our
answer to that, and it comes back really to the strategy point
but it is slightly broader than the sport and recreation strategy
point, is that planning authorities must take a much stronger
view, with community participation, as to the kind of environment,
landscape, they want in those areas, and there is the possibility
to develop much more meaningful, much more practical visions of
the kind of landscape that people want in the urban fringe, and
we have examples in our Community Forest programme, which can
then be adopted as supplementary planning guidance and have the
force of agreed by the community planning statement. And that
is the better way to resolve what are these extremely micro-scale
decisions, I quite take the point, of golf courses as well as
football pitches, and so on.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence. Thank you.