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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180 - 193)



  180. Does that not step back from what you were mentioning previously which would be some minimum standards, say, 100 metres, 200 metres, 600 metres?
  (Mr Elliot) Yes.

  181. Is that not contrary to what you are saying now?
  (Mr Elliot) We recognised that within the inner city there are some areas that will never achieve our standard but we need to try and secure ways of actually improving the quality of these environments and also not simply the quantity of open space but also the quality. Within the plan its provision chapter says that we can trade off quantity against the standard with quality of open space.

Mrs Dunwoody

  182. Could I ask you a rather tactless question? Leeds has got very large amounts of land around quite a few of its housing developments, some of which are fairly sterile. Forgive me saying so but they are not landscape garden geniuses. Do you have any plan to provide special facilities in those areas for the children? I know it costs money. Has anybody done any kind of imaginative plan that says, "We have got problems in this area. We have got real difficulty with social housing. Let us try and break the mould and do something special in that area"?
  (Mr Elliot) What we are seeking to do as part of the children's play strategy is to rationalise children's play so that you have fewer formal children's play areas and you rationalise the quality upwards so that within these what we are providing is about five or strategic places with integrated play areas.

  183. But you have just told us that children play wherever they are and their mothers like to know where they are, so creating very high quality few playgrounds might not be the answer, might it?
  (Mr Elliot) But balanced with more informal spaces close to where children live. We recognise that we can have the quality everywhere within Leeds, so what we are going to do is place strategic high quality play areas—

  184. Are you targeting some of those big estates which have got large amounts of land and you are thinking about what you are going to do with that land?
  (Mr Elliot) Yes.

Chris Grayling

  185. What do you mean by "informal"? In reality, if I am in a flat in a block on the edge of Leeds and I am looking out of my window at an informal play area, what does it look like?
  (Mr Elliot) It looks like an area which cannot afford play opportunities.


  186. You mean it looks like a dump?
  (Mr Elliot) Yes. By the nature of its landscaping, by the nature of its protection, by the nature of the fact that it may be fenced, by the nature of the fact that you do not have dogs walking across it.[2]

Chris Grayling

  187. But otherwise it is just an open piece of ground?
  (Mr Elliot) It may be. We are working with our environmental—[3]

  Chairman: We are running a little bit short on time.

Ms King

  188. I just wanted to ask the GLA, do you have any further views on the requirement and the reasonability of it?
  (Ms Hennessey) Sure. The reason behind us deciding to produce a guide was really to fill this apparent gap between national guidance which requires local authorities to produce there own standards and in the more current draft to undertake a more thorough assessment of need. Between that and what actually happens on the ground and, like many authorities around the country, few London boroughs have produced their own standards, so the idea was to facilitate their work and to provide a framework for them to operate within. The idea behind an Open Space Strategy is that it is corporately produced, a corporately owned strategy that may be initiated within a planning department but should be undertaken in conjunction with leisure departments, that it looks across all types of different open space: allotments, parks, and so on, but also looks at private open space as well as public open space for the reason that I mentioned earlier, that a lot of the opportunities to create new publicly accessible open space are through the private open spaces in London. We believe the guide will provide boroughs with the tools that they need to go off and plan in a more comprehensive way and the elements of an Open Space Strategy that we envisage would be starting with an audit or a survey of all the open space provision within the local authority, which sounds quite incredible but most boroughs in London know where their public open space is but few have a comprehensive record of all their open spaces including the privately owned open spaces, and then to follow on from that by looking at where the areas of deficiency are based on the standards but supplementing the standards with user surveys and household surveys to really get under the skin of what are the local needs within an area.

  189. On that point about standards, how are you going to deal with the areas like Tower Hamlets where there is not a scrap of open land left virtually? How will you deal with them in comparison to other boroughs where there is much more open space?
  (Ms Hennessey) Tower Hamlets do plot their areas of deficiency based on the lower level of the GLC hierarchy which is—


  190. We know the problem. The question you were asked was, what do you do when you know the problem?
  (Ms Hennessey) We are working with them to facilitate the collection of the data that they need to enable them to use that effectively.

  191. But surely it is obvious, is it not, in some of the more overcrowded parts of London that there is a lack of green space? The question is, how do you get that green space?
  (Ms Hennessey) The starting point has got to be collection of thorough data on where your open space is, which ones you are going to protect.

Sir Paul Beresford

  192. Have you been to Tower Hamlets?
  (Ms Hennessey) Yes.

Christine Russell

  193. I would like to ask a question on private open space. In lots of our very congested towns and cities that valuable green land is in fact privately owned. I think Leeds their submission drew attention to this fact, that very little protection is afforded. It is fine if it is part of the green belt, the land concerned, or in a conservation area. What has happened to local landscape status? Is that still around? I would like you to comment on how perhaps we can protect and your views on this draft PPG on privately owned land.
  (Mr Elliot) Through the adoption of the Leeds UDP we have designated what we call open land, which are large strategic parcels of land to which the public does not have a right of access, where we would only permit open uses which are recreation uses or agricultural uses. It is one of the more contentious designations that we have under the Leeds UDP. The point I was making in my comment on the PPG was that we do not seem to have the national guidance support for that designation for private land purely retained for its own right in terms of open use, protected simply for its own right without actually having a purpose that is tangible but forming a green line along a major conservation route. I think it points to the health of the city, the perception of the city that we were talking about earlier. I do feel that the PPG needs to tackle this. It could be under the word "value" in terms of how we value open spaces.

  Chairman: I think that is very helpful but I am afraid I am going to have to cut you off because we are overrunning quite a long way. Thank you all very much for your evidence.

2   Note by witness: This answer describes what an informal space for children's play would look like. It does not positively affirm the Chair's contention that the space "looks like a dump". Indeed it is a reaction to the fact that the space is not a dump and can be appropriately designed that is context behind the answer. Back

3   Note by witness: design group to come up with examples of informal play spaces. Back

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