Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
160. Could you give a practical example of where
this has actually worked?
(Mr Elliot) In terms of taking money off new development
to improve green space rather than provide it?
161. By everyone coming together as you indicated
in the community, getting round the problems and pointing in a
particular direction, can you give the Committee any indication
whether you have had a successful outcome?
(Mr Elliot) Personally no. It goes on all the time.
We are dealing with the green space provision on a day to day
basis. I deal with it largely from the strategic side. I do not
necessarily deal with the implementation.
162. Could you give an indication to the Committee
where you have had a very positive effect upon your planning policies
or indeed the implementation of your planning policies?
(Mr Elliot) I think the implementation of planning
policies has a positive effect right the way across the district.
The problems where it occurs is that if you are tying provision
of open space to new development, those areas of the district
where new development does not occur, which coincidentally are
likely to be the areas of the district which suffer the most in
terms of paucity of green space, how you get monies into those
163. The Government has a target of settling
80 per cent of planning applications within eight weeks. What
impact does that have on open space as part of planning decisions?
(Mr Meigh) I am not aware that it is giving us particular
problems because a lot of the ground work has been done in advance.
Developments I have been asked to comment on and my colleagues
in leisure have been asked to comment on about the suitability
of location, size of open space within any new development, normally
come to us before a formal planning application is submitted.
164. So it does not produce any problems?
(Mr Meigh) I would be wrong to say it does not produce
any problems but in the main I have not encountered a great deal
of problems. Quite often the development has been referred back
to the developers for fine tuning or re-landscaping as part of
wider concerns about the development rather than just open space,
immediate impact on traffic flows ora particular style of development.
165. Concluding the Section 106 agreements where
there is perhaps some dispute over them, does it help or hinder
(Mr Meigh) I have mixed experience of contractors
paying up on time for things that they have signed up to do as
part of 106 agreements. Fortunately the scheme I am referring
to does not give us a problem. Cash flow is not a problem yet
but this is part of a larger scheme, the restoration of our flagship
park, so it does not really give us a problem yet, but it would
be disappointing if that did not come in within the timescale
agreed on the scheme.
166. And Leeds? What is your experience?
(Mr Elliot) As a planning obligation green space is
actually one of the simpler and easier planning obligations that
Leeds requests. We have far more problems with affordable housing
than we do with green space. We are well used to planning green
space. We have an SPG which requires it in association with new
housing development. That has been around since 1998. It has become
quite ingrained now so we do not have much problem, so allmost
from inception 106 payments and agreements are quite close. We
have a specific project officer who looks at this and so we do
not find much of a problem in terms of securing them.
Sir Paul Beresford
167. Would you think the eight week target has
forced local authorities and developers to start talking and negotiating
early in contrast to the attitude prior to the eight weeks?
(Mr Elliot) It depends what you are negotiating. If
you are negotiating green space developers are quite amenable
to hat. If you are negotiating affordable housing which has more
severe impact on the value of the development, developers are
more likely to leave it to the last moment in some cases and say
that the development goes ahead or it does not depending whether
affordable housing is in it or not.
168. Can we focus in on the PPG17 because it
encourages planning authorities to use these Section 106 agreements
to get better provision and maintenance of open space? Section
106 you have more or less said is critical. Section 106's can
be used to enhance existing open spaces or community facilities
and the like. Have any particularly imaginative examples of the
use of Section 106 agreements in your patch?
(Mr Meigh) The best one in York pre-dates the current
City of York Council formed in 1996 the community status on a
bigger boundary. It comes from the Ryedale District Council at
Earswick where the housing executive doubled the amount of public
open space in the village and provided bowling greens, tennis
courts and a small community centre.
169. For public use?
(Mr Meigh) Yes. As ever, we could do with more. That
was then transferred to the parish or residents' association to
run so there is very little involvement from the City Council.
I know that in splitting up the 106 monies it was quite fraught
for my colleagues in the planning department.
170. Are they still running?
(Mr Meigh) Yes. It is 12 months old.
171. Can I just press you on this business of
providing facilities and more open space, whether it can be done
off site or on site. I think local authorities tend to follow
a conservative policy when brokering Section 106 agreements. Do
you find that they are not used as aggressively or as positively
as they might be?
(Mr Elliot) I think a lot of the restrictions on Section
106 agreements actually lie within the planning obligations and
the Act itself in terms of where they can be used. Leeds City
Council in its attempts to try and direct monies to the inner
city wards where there is severe shortage of green space try and
secure 106 agreements with phrases such as "to be used within
the community area or a neighbouring community area" to hopefully
include some of those community areas which do not have any green
space in them or have very severe shortages of green space. I
think you are restricted in terms of how far across the district
you can do that. Whether you are securing green space in a ward
in the suburbs to use in the inner city, for example, is not possible.
You would have to rely on the capital programme and other opportunities
172. And you stick rigidly to the guidance that
you are given in interpreting that?
(Mr Elliot) I do not think developers would allow
us to get away with them providing green space in a different
area of the city even if it may not be required on their site
to accord with our accessibility hierarchy. I still think the
developer looks for some sort of comfort that is provided within
the set defined area, so that it is some use to the people that
actually use their development
173. Retail developers increasingly are offering
open space, play facilities and things like that as part of a
package in order to sweeten the pill if the development itself
is not universally popular. Is that a tendency you have picked
up in your own areas?
(Ms Hennessey) Certainly there has been an example
in the London context in Hammersmith where an existing open space
was improved with funding cleared through Section 106 agreement
with a retail developer.
174. A supermarket?
(Ms Hennessey) Yes. Certainly we are very keen to
explore all the possibilities and not simply look at opportunities
through new housing developments but also through commercial developments
that are coming through, particularly important in the town centre
environment where open space is at a premium and often of poor
175. One point worries me slightly. Referring
to the example of quite expensive executive housing, then the
amount of planning gain you might be able to get out of that is
probably quite substantial in your view than from a site for lower
cost housing in the inner city, so the most that can be gained
in these sorts of developments will go to areas that are already
probably slightly better off anyway. Is there a problem with this
form of approach?
(Mr Meigh) I would have said so.
(Mr Elliot) In terms of what sort of planning gain
you are securing. We try and secure those obligations which meet
our planned targets. Obviously within a high executive development
we secure a large element of affordable housing within that anyway,
but in terms of trying to marry up where the green space historically
is with where the green space needs to be is something that is
very difficult and which we have to try and solve through capital
programmes and outside funding, the New Opportunities Fund, for
(Mr Meigh) I would agree with that. For the social
inclusion agenda you are restricted by where that windfall development
176. There is the point about maintenance as
well. Obviously the developer would reach those agreements with
the possibility of committing sums to maintain a space or play
areas afterwards is welcome, but some authorities have got to
the point of saying, "Really we do not think even with this
community itself that we want to take on this responsibility for
open space or play areas because it is going to cost us more and
more in the long term than we are going to get." Have you
got any other ideas about how adopting open spaces and play areas
could be pursued without the local authority having the responsibility?
Have you got any examples of where this has been done?
(Mr Elliot) I do not have any examples but from a
purely ideological point of view I would say that local authorities
are the best providers to secure and maintain open spaces. If
bodies other than local authorities start maintaining and patrolling
open spaces I would have doubts as to whether or not they could
be secured for the wider public good. Maybe it will be a public
space that did not allow cyclists or, at an extreme, public space
that restricted the entry of children or a public space that restricted
the entry of people that did not live in that area. I do think
that local authorities are best placed to maintain and adopt and
look after public spaces.
(Mr Meigh) I am afraid I completely disagree. In York
we are developing a mixed approach. We are not the sole landowner.
Possibly about 70 per cent of public open space is with the authority.
The remaining 30 per cent is provided by parish or town councils
by a number of trusts. We are trying to concentrate on that flagship
service that the City Council will run and quality for the community,
low key facilities that the community is more involved with in
managing and running. That depends on the community being willing
to get involved. We are trying to adopt an approach where the
community is a lot more involved in managing its open space.
177. In my constituency, which has probably
got more managed open spaces than any other within the M25, we
have a huge diversity of people patrolling the parks because with
regard to considerable local authority involvement in open spaces
we have the Corporation of London which manages a quite substantial
area very effectively, we have the National Trust close by which
manages large open spaces very effectively. Are you saying that
you do not believe that the contribution of organisations like
those in the management of open spaces for the public community
(Mr Elliot) The whole multiplicity of opportunities
that open spaces provide needs tying together, not just in terms
to enter into agreements with private providers there would need
to be some sort of guarantee that the open spaces were secured
and you did actually have a management plan or I think it could
be secured through 106 perhaps, but there would need to be clear
guidelines. Blanket dismissal of private investment in open space
would appear to be unrealistic, particularly in the climate in
which we live, but certainly you need to pay particular attention
to how you secure and maintain them in perpetuity.
178. The distinction between publicly owned
open space and open space that is open to the public but may be
in the possession of a trust. This question is aimed at York.
Are you satisfied that in your area what you count as public open
space is genuinely accessible in principle to the public without
any restriction or possibility of restriction being imposed?
(Mr Meigh) I do not know the exact technicality but
I am sure we would not designate it as public open space if the
public could not get on to it. For that reason school playing
fields are not included as public open space.
179. But where you levy a charge in principle
would that still be counted as public open space? If the trust
put a charge on to get into its grounds does that count as public
open space as well?
(Mr Meigh) I do not think we have any, so I do not
know how we would respond. I am referring to pieces of land where
you can step from one site to the other without any kind of entrance
fee or controlling person on the gate as it were.
There is no basic reference in the PPG to help
authorities assess requirements for the provision of amenity open
space or to help them plan strategically. As we have heard, the
GLA is preparing advice for the boroughs on open space strategies
as required by the draft London Plan. Obviously this plan is not
going to apply to either of your councils but could you tell us
if you think this requirement is reasonable?
(Mr Elliot) I think in terms of providing
a rationale for protection to counter any development pressure
that may arise, yes, but within a district like Leeds, and if
you take the district as a whole and you make the point that there
is an under-provision of open space as a whole, bearing in mind
those areas that are over-provided and those areas that are under-provided,
maybe you should take that approach as simply on a provision rather
than as the quality of each individual open space. Maybe you should
recognise the ability of people that live in areas of deficit
of open space to travel, because what we have not talked about
is whether or not there will ever be opportunities to improve
open space in inner city areas that just do not have the land,
particularly in light of PPG3 which is seeking to provide more
and more housing on brownfield sites. I have no answers for this.