Examination of Witnesses (Questions 46-59)|
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
46. Can I welcome you to the third session this
morning and ask you to identify yourselves for the record? I do
not know whether you want to say anything by way of introduction,
or are you happy to straight to questions?
(Mr Brooking) I will probably give a brief statement,
but, first of all, I am Trevor Brooking, Chair of Sport England.
(Ms Simmonds) I am Brigid Simmonds. I am a Council
Member of Sport England and also Chief Executive of Business in
Sport and Leisure.
(Mr Payne) I am David Payne. I am Director of the
More Places programme in Sport England, responsible for the planning
function of Sport England and development of facilities, and I
am a professional planner.
47. Thank you. You would like to say a few words?
(Mr Brooking) Yes, just briefly. First of all, Sport
England are very pleased to have been given the opportunity to
give evidence here, which we think is a very important inquiry.
Certainly, I think, you have seen from our submission that we
think PPG17 is quite weak and a backward step from the 1991 version,
and so it was quite interesting to hear some of the earlier comments.
Because, really, I am not here to argue sport v. open space, because
I think they have to be complementary, and a lot of my early years
in sport was very much in formal recreation, in parks, on playing-fields,
or whatever; and so we are here really to strengthen it from both
points of view, and I think that is important. Certainly, you
have only got to look at the Prime Minister a few months ago,
who mentioned that investment in sport is not really a policy
just for sport, it is very much these days one for education,
it is youngsters developing in behaviour, discipline, all areas
really of social skills, health, with the problems of obesity,
and so forth. Certainly then we work very closely with the Home
Office, trying to put in sporting elements to fighting crime and
some of the vandalism and behaviour with young people, and it
is those areas, also with the anti-drug unit that we work closely.
So I think it is the wider agenda that we are looking at. Somebody
mentioned earlier the feel-good factor of sport, and I think earlier
this month perhaps, with the football team qualifying for the
World Cup, there was a fantastic upsurge of national pride, although
I would say we had to wait till the 93rd minute before it happened,
but it was still a good feeling when it happened. Also, a year
ago, with the Olympics, again there were several weeks where everyone
across the country, because I think at some stage some member
of the family is interested, has an interest in sport. So really
we need the PPG17 to be much stronger, much clearer, to give us
the technical support really of the planning process, and that
is really why we are here today, because we do think we need to
protect facilities, particularly playing-fields, where I think
the current draft is actually a lot weaker this time round. We
have got to try to develop new facilities, and certainly with
the Urban White Paper, the Rural White Paper and certainly the
Strategy for Sport from the Government, we need to have the PPG17
strong if we are to be able to deliver this wider agenda. So,
as I say, it is the only PPG that reflects sport, it needs to
be strong and fair, and we are very pleased to have the opportunity.
One thing I would say, I have got the opportunity to meet the
Minister for Planning, Sally Keeble, next Monday, so I appreciate
that from DTLR that we are getting the opportunity to try to have
a discussion and work on that.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
48. The impression you have given is that Sport
England has almost been sidelined by this process and has not
been involved in any meaningful way in it; so what contribution
have you made towards this revision, if any, and what are the
key issues you would have wanted to see in the revised guidance,
and are they there?
(Ms Simmonds) We, obviously, have made a submission,
as has everybody else, on the revision of this. I think there
were four main areas where we would like to see it strengthened.
The first is making the case for sport; if you do not make the
case at a local authority level, to local authority planners,
they will not include sport, because it is not at the top of their
agenda. I think the second one is the criteria-based protection
for playing-fields, which is in the 1991 version and has somehow
disappeared in this version. The third area is particularly about
introducing a concept of affordable sport; just as you have affordable
housing when you build a housing development, why not have the
provision of affordable sport which would have to be there.
49. What is affordable sport?
(Ms Simmonds) Sport which everyone has access to.
50. Is that free sport?
(Ms Simmonds) No, not free, but on the
basis that local authorities provide sports facilities; anyway,
some of them are free in an informal way, but, a lot of them,
if you go swimming, you pay, whatever the amount is, £1.50,
on your swim, so it should be a similar facility. And the fourth
area is very much about strengthening regional guidance and ensuring
that regional guidance really looks at sport as well, because
otherwise we end up in a situation whereby you have a swimming-pool
in one local authority next door to a boundary where you have
got a swimming-pool in another local authority, and regional planning
guidance should be planning for major facilities and ensuring
that it is looking at the local facilities as well.
(Mr Brooking) You were talking about the pricing structure
though, that is a key factor, because playing pitches, for instance,
it varies right across the country, the cost factor, and actually
some say, well, the use of the pitches is not as high as it used
to be, and actually if you go and look at the pitches they are
mud heaps, no changing facilities, and the boiler does not work,
so they wonder why the pitches are not being used. So, again,
it is the quality. What is the pricing structure, is it accessible
to the unemployed person, and to some it is out of their reach;
and so it is areas like that. I went to Sunderland City Council
to open a sports centre, the Raich Carter Sports Centre, about
two weeks ago, which is a fantastic example, it is a Beacon Council,
and they are using sports development right across the district,
and we put in £5 million towards the cost of a £6 million
sports centre, which, you have got a local community group called
"Back on the Map", which is actually developing a pricing
structure, with up to 60 or 70 per cent discount for usage, and
they have got 62 per cent of their local community actually utilising
this. It has been open four months, 110,000 people have gone through,
far in excess of expectations. Even some of the arguments that
one or two of the local centres would actually then lose some
of their business are wrong, because, some 28, 29 per cent, the
one down the road, a mile and a half away, has had an upsurge
in usage. So what we are saying is, if you put the right structure
in, facilities, access, pricing, you actually can tap into the
51. Can I just pick you up on a point you made
earlier. I can see, you have got a desire to have a national strategy
for sport which is reflected down at local level then and links
into the planning guidance, and that is used as a vehicle to try
to achieve it, and you said there was no conflict between open
space provision and sport, but, clearly, if one of these major
new centres, which you are so enthusiastic about, probably quite
rightly, is going to be built on an open space then there is a
potential conflict. As we said just before, there may be no conflict
between a playing-field and open space but there is between a
major new development. Can a PPG like this really deal with all
those sorts of issues you want to see and the provision of open
space as well?
(Mr Payne) Of course, the context of the national
planning guidance is to set clear, concise, planning frameworks
for local authorities to make decisions in, in terms of development
plans, planning applications and appeals; therefore, we think
it is important that there is clarity in the guidance about the
complementariness of sport and open space, in clear, national
guidance. We think that can be reflected in local strategies that
set out the needs for both and sets that into the framework. We
think it is important that the national guidance actually puts
an encouragement, if not a requirement, on local authorities to
prepare those open space and playing-field strategies. And one
of the roles that we play precisely in the potential conflicts
of open space and playing-fields is now a statutory role, and
we are a statutory consultee in the protection of playing-fields.
That also can encourage, of course, open space that is used as
a playing-field, they have complementary uses, and we will always
seek to protect playing-fields from development if there is a
continuing need for that playing-field space. So the important
point, I think, is, in national guidance, that there is a requirement
for local authorities to produce playing-field and open space
strategies, based on the local assessment of need; and part of
our role has been, since 1991, to assist local authorities in
how to do that, both through grant aid and through advisory assistance
52. The Department for Education and Skills
determines whether it feels there is adequate provision in terms
of playing-fields. I speak as an MP whose constituents did not
have a single playing-field in 1997. Do you think that they have
come to the correct conclusions on what determines adequate provision?
(Mr Payne) I think this is an important context in
terms of joined-up government, if I could be so bold. I think
it is important that Education and Skills are actually looking
at the continuing needs for playing-fields for schools and existing
community use; we also, of course, have other departments looking
at, and, again, in terms of DCMS, its own role in terms of the
sporting future, setting out what it would like to see in the
PPG in terms of guidance for playing-fields for community use
and potential community use. We think it is very important that
all those aspects come together in one unified approach that actually
assesses the need for playing-fields and open space, set out in
national planning guidance, then reinforced in local strategies
that local authorities can actually take on to protect, promote
and develop. And I think that is one of our key messages, protect,
promote and develop playing-fields and open space.
(Ms Simmonds) It helps, with local authorities. The
first PPG, the 1991 PPG, had a very strong statement about local
authorities having strategies for sport; we are now ten years
on, only 30 per cent of local authorities have these strategies,
and it is very important that the need for strategies, is brought
back into a strengthened PPG 17.
53. Are any of them any good?
(Ms Simmonds) Yes, some of them are very good; but
I think you have just highlighted an example where perhaps you
did not have a strategy, and therefore that is why your facilities
were not there, and it is very important that the local authority
plays its part, both in land planning and in its cultural or its
leisure development department, to ensure that those facilities
are there and for everyone to use.
(Mr Brooking) But you have hit on a point, about are
they any good, because there are some excellent ones, and we have
got examples of really good practice which have helped our evidence,
because all government departments want evidence, where this sounds
very good, how does it work. But, the fact is, certainly in a
significant part of the country as well, they are not delivering,
and the fact is we want to access projects and programmes into
those areas; now if you do not give them strong steers and guidelines
they will just abandon ship and continue not doing anything. And
the actual areas that we want to access, and the very communities
that need us to develop those programmes and projects, we will
not be able to because it will be far more difficult. It is those
non-deliverable areas that we want to get into, and that is why
the PPG17 is so vital.
Sir Paul Beresford
54. Mr Payne, you mentioned the importance of
local authorities assessing need; one of the difficulties is the
local authorities will assess demand, but if you provide the facilities,
stimulate it, raise the prospect of sport, work through the schools,
etc., that need should be greater than the demand?
(Mr Payne) Yes, this is always the thing about latent
demand; if you create something it creates a need in itself.
55. So how do you get round it?
(Mr Payne) Sport England has done extensive work to
assess the need for sports facilities. The way that we do that
is, we actually look at existing participation where there is
a good supply of facilities, so we assume that, basically, that
is taking up latent demand. And the way that we then do it is
apply that method and that sort of planning approach to where
there is what is potentially a need for facilities, so we actually
compare good provision, good supply, good management, with other
areas of the country that, in essence, need to reach that standard.
And that is the consistent advice that we have given to local
authorities for ten years in our planning advisory service on
facilities planning. Again, I think a useful part of the 1991
PPG was actually to set that context for that work to take place,
which allowed Sport England to then develop its advisory services
through our regional offices, and we employ professional planners
and sports facilities planners, and each of our nine regional
offices takes on and provides that advice and assistance to local
56. Do you compare this country with other countries,
particularly those that have been successful, in sporting terms?
(Mr Payne) I think facility provision, without a doubt,
does play a key role, and, for example, we could say, in Australia,
that the number of 50-metre swimming-pools is far in excess of
what it is in this country, and I think we can see the evidence
of facilities providing opportunities, providing opportunities
for sports people to excel. So; yes.
(Ms Simmonds) But we do work with individual governing
bodies. I chaired a meeting with the Amateur Swimming Association
to look at precisely that, how many 50-metre pools we have, where
strategically they would like to see them based; and that is where
the regional planning system could work with the governing bodies
of sport, to ensure that sites are allocated for such things as
(Mr Brooking) But it is not just facilities; the sports
development looks at the quality of coaching and the access into
facilities and coaching, and I spoke about the Olympics a year
ago. The sad fact is, the actual squad that went out there, two-thirds
of it now comes from social economic groups A and B, and, I have
got to say, 20, 25 years ago that actual balance was totally reversed,
and it is reflecting that. You cannot tell me there is not some
sporting talent in some of the inner cities and rural areas that
are not getting the opportunity to try sport; but we are losing
champions, because they are not even getting the chance to find
out if they are any good. And what we need is, to reverse that
trend, we need to give the opportunity to some of the communities
that are not getting that chance; and if you imagine one or two
sporting heroes emerging from that, the uplift it would do for
the communities. And so it is an overall major issue really, but
we are working with police and social services and areas like
that, where they are arguing the case that sport has to be a part
of some of the problems that are being caused. And I think it
is the life skills that sport is putting into place, as far as
the behaviour, discipline, team work, self-confidence, communication
skills, a whole range of life skills; if they drift away from
sport, the younger people, later on, I hope they do not, but it
stays with them, and will give us a better community.
57. What are your regional organisations doing
to bring a joined-up approach to sports issues?
(Mr Payne) A number of things. First of all, I think,
in national planning, what we are doing is actually setting the
context, using the existing planning guidance, using some of the
comments, to go back to an earlier question about what Sport England
has done, in terms of preparation of this guidance. With DTLR,
in 1996, we jointly commissioned and undertook the effectiveness
of the existing PPG, which came out with 36
58. But what are you doing through your regional
organisations, because that is where you are operating regionally,
all the government departments who are apparently not very joined
up also operate regionally, there are also regional assemblies,
there are regional agencies. What is it that you are doing, through
your regional structure, to bring a joined-up approach at that
(Mr Brooking) If I start initially with our own Minister,
of course, who now is the Minister of State and actually he chairs
cross-department meetings now, involving health, education and
also now the DTLR are involved, so that there is so-called joined-up
thinking. Then you devolve it down to obviously the regional assemblies,
the Regional Development Agencies are going to be big players,
and I have seen six or seven of those already. I have had one
criticism, that I must say was spot the sports person on them,
because we cannot have an input if we have not got any representation
on them, and that is another debate. Cultural consortiums; our
regional offices have to be working with all those, because we
are not trying to say sport is the be all and end all, what we
are asking for is everyone to sit round the table, because we
can put facilities in rural areas but if there is no transportation
element taken on board and how to get there, what is the point
of putting extra curriculum on if no youngster can get home two
hours later. And so you have to have an overall picture, and that
is why, certainly nationally, our own Minister, the cross-department
stuff, that has got to be devolved out, but we need to be sitting
round the table. There are initiatives through government coming
out of everyone's ears, but you have got to tap into them and
they are going into concentrated areas, some 20 per cent of the
country; well, sporting deprivation cuts across 80 per cent of
the country, and we can have a massive impact in other areas.
And it is getting everyone realising what everyone else is trying
to achieve, and that is the main agenda, I totally agree, and
certainly the regionalisation one, because, of course, our current
Minister comes from planning and is very keen for us to take on
board that agenda.
(Ms Simmonds) I think, at a regional level also, our
regional offices, the staff of those regional offices go out and
help local authorities to plan for sport. I sit on the Lottery
Panel; if you think we have had 8,000 applications since the Lottery
began and we have given 3,500 awards, we spent £1.24 billion,
that is a huge sum of money which has gone, obviously, into sport,
and a lot of these projects need planning permission. And that
is another reason, as we go forward with the Lottery, why the
planning guidance has got to be stronger.
59. Do you think you have got good value for
money from that?
(Ms Simmonds) I think we have got good value for money,
but I think it will take at least ten years before you will start
to see the results of that, because it is about people participating,
at a much earlier age and it is about getting them through the
system on to more people, more places, more medals, which is the
raison d'être for Sport England.
(Mr Brooking) I think, when the Lottery was set up
though it was supposedly additional money, and a lot of the time,
unfortunately, sadly, it has been substitution money, and, as
I sit here now, as Exchequer funding, my organisation gets £40
million for Exchequer funding, and when you think of the growth
in sport and leisure in the last five years that is not reflected
from that point of view; so the Lottery money is absolutely crucial.
But just sports halls and swimming-pools alone, those that were
put up 20, 25 years ago would cost our organisation £5 billion
to refurbish; now we are getting inundated with sports facilities
of that sort to refurbish. Well, our figure, which initially was
£300 million is now £210 million, we cannot cope just
with that element of sports facilities.
2 Note by witness: 36 recommendations for any