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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-65)



Mrs Ellman

  60. Are there any changes in draft PPG17, or other planning matters, which would assist the more integrated approach you are trying to adopt?
  (Ms Simmonds) I think, one of the things, I have brought along a lot of policies, which I would like to leave with you. If we move towards a slimmed-down PPG system, which we may do under the sorts of changes this Government is considering now, and we have best practice attached to it, there is a huge role that Sport England can play and could play in that part where the PPG guidance could direct people to Sport England. Here I have Playing-Field Strategies, Planning Policies for Sport, Playing Pitches, Planning Across Boundaries: A Strategy, Land-Based Motor-Sport, Sport in the Urban Fringe. I could go on. There is a wealth of experience in Sport England and we are really waiting to go out and work with DTLR on improving this guidance and making sure that they pick up on our expertise.

Chris Grayling

  61. Can I take you on to talk a little bit about the tensions between sport and countryside. There are a number of sports in this country, and I represent a constituency where one of them is a high-profile issue in the racing industry, where the demands of the industry, in planning terms and development terms, the demands of the sport, impact very heavily on the countryside; the same can apply to water-based sports. Can you give us a sense of your views on the guidance in the revised draft about this issue?
  (Mr Payne) The existing guidance actually answers this question, we think, quite clearly and quite succinctly, when it says that there should be a balance in reconciling the competing land uses in the countryside; and I think all we are saying is that sport has a legitimate role in recreation, has a legitimate role in the countryside, alongside a lot of other uses. And I think we recognise that a balanced approach, a managed approach, is the way to reconcile and address these conflicts, and that is obviously a function of the planning system. I think it goes further, because particularly the Chairman's Environmental Impact of Leisure Activities, in 1996, in effect, reinforced, I think, that same message, about the importance of planning and managing and making sure that there are all considerations in the planning system and you can actually look on an equal footing. It is fair to say, of course, some sports are noisy, are intrusive and are disruptive, and I think, again, to address that particular issue what we have actually done is we have sat down with the governing bodies of sport and asked them to identify, for a criteria-based approach, what sites are important, what criteria are important, for you, in addressing your needs in the countryside; so that in the planning system that can be set alongside the other uses and the other desires for the countryside for quiet enjoyment, the landscape value and for all the other legitimate uses in the countryside. We would like to see that criteria built into national guidance and reinforced, particularly at regional level, in regional planning guidance, and actually so sport and recreation can be managed through and we can resolve these conflicts.
  (Mr Brooking) I think you have got to sit round the table and discuss it, it is about management, because there is sometimes an inaccurate perception; because I remember I was the Chair of the Eastern Region, we went out in Norfolk to see a couple of lakes that were quite close by, and we went with some local councillors and the little group that said nothing should be happening. And we looked at the first lake and it was all very peaceful, and we went through half an hour of why things should be kept as they were, and then we went to have a look at the other one, and when we got there there were lots of water activities taking place, and actually they said, "Look, you see, that noise, and so forth, would be unacceptable." And, in fact, then we embarrassed them by the fact that that had been going on for an hour, and whilst we were at the other lake they had not heard any of the noise or disturbance, so there was the perception of what the noise level would be, and actually we helped resolve that. So, by actually using examples and going out and having a really sensible approach to it, it is much better to select a certain area, get that focus for the sport and then you will not have fragmented, spasmodic individuals causing havoc because of their frustration that they are not given the opportunity in a designated area.
  (Mr Payne) Could I possibly add one example. I spent a misspent weekend preparing for the inquiry, actually a couch potato watching television, and there was the European Water-Ski Championships on television, which were held in Sale Country Park; so there we had water-skiing, in a country park, part of the community forest, part of the urban fringe, and it seemed to me quite a lot of land uses and water uses and sports activities all going on together.


  62. But it is not quite the same as trying to find a course for youngsters to have motorbike scrambling, is it, on an urban fringe?
  (Mr Payne) No. I would accept, Chairman, that is difficult; and I think, again, the reasoned approach to that is to actually see that as a legitimate activity, and I think, as the Chairman said, of some of the other values that sport can bring, in terms of people and in terms of quality of life, and I think hopefully getting that recognised within the planning system so that we do plan for those activities alongside other activities on the urban fringe.

  63. I am conscious that we are overrunning a little bit, but can I ask you particularly about this drive to have the European-style sports clubs; if you get the big football club that puts in all the other sports facilities it draws a lot of people in to participating. But there is a bit of a problem, is there not, as to where you put that sort of centre around some of the football clubs in this country?
  (Mr Brooking) Yes, I think it is something that we are looking at now, but what we want is access for everyone, and, again, clubs are sited in a particular area and not always convenient to that part of town; and so it goes back to your strategic overview, does it not. And I have got professional football clubs that do fantastic work for us in our study support centres, where you have full-time truant youngsters going in, because they are interested in football they are going in and they are learning other skills. So, from the planning point of view, I think it really is the overall picture of what are you trying to achieve locally and that knowledge within the planning process of capitalising on all areas.
  (Ms Simmonds) You have to look also at the benefits that those sorts of clubs have to the economy and the local economy and all the things that they would not have if they were not there. There is also quite a strong argument about critical mass, that is you have all the sports facilities in the same place then the children can go off and do one thing and the parents can go off and do another, and I think that is quite an important issue, particularly where you are mixing public and private provision of sport.
  (Mr Payne) Just a final comment on that. I think that is absolutely right, in terms of providing those economies of scale, but I think what that possibly could do is to lose the local amenity of local sports clubs, because it is consolidation, and a lot of these local, smaller clubs and smaller recreational groups are, of course, in the inner city, where the sports facilities do provide the open space function. So I think it is the importance, again, about local strategies assessing the need for sport and open space across the whole of the area and then planning the provision from there.
  (Mr Brooking) One final point. In the current, actually, PPG17, they have 0.4 hectares as the minimum level of land, and the football that you mentioned are now, for under-11s, going very much into small-sided games, seven-a-side, where that is below that figure; so you can have, actually, crucial, valuable pockets of land at the moment sold off, where the actual national body are saying everyone should be playing seven-a-side, which actually would take us down to 0.2 hectares.[3] And it is little situations like that that we can convey to the overall planning process.

  (Ms Simmonds) It is the size of the protection of playing-fields only at the moment is 0.4 hectares, and we would prefer it to be 0.2 hectares, whereby you have to come to Sport England and say you want to sell off a playing-field, so that we protect these areas too.

  64. That does then raise the question of do you have the resources to appear at planning inquiries to support your objections to developments?
  (Mr Payne) Yes, we have consistently provided that support through our own regional planning staff and the employment of professional planning skills to assist us to fight key inquiries or key appeals. The number is rising, but we do resource that because it is a statutory function of Sport England.

  65. But you would like the protection to be on smaller sites?
  (Mr Payne) Very much.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence.

3   Note by witness: Due to a typographical error in Sport England's written submission, the measurement given was acres. This should have been hectares, as noted in oral evidence. Back

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