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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380 - 383)



  380. Why do you think sport was given such a predominant role?
  (Ms Woolley) How honest do you want me to be? Because Sport England is a very big lobby and has a lot of money behind it. I cannot say if the other directors would agree with me on that, but that is my personal view. I am not anti-sport. We only need to look at the figures concerning children and sport. In this country in our schools we have children getting less physical education than anywhere in Europe and that is not good, so I am not against sport.

  381. Should there be a counter-weight lobby then?
  (Ms Woolley) We are trying to be that but we have not got the financial resources of Sport England.

  382. Do you think parks are managing to make any come back compared to sport?
  (Ms Woolley) It is very clear that where parks have been regenerated under HLF funding the number of users has dramatically gone up and instead of there being a downward spiral of decline there is an upward spiral of hope and activity and people are using those spaces much more. People feel safer and more confident and there are more people feeling safer until you get to a certain level where for some people it is too many people. So the confidence in open space is on the increase, but there are still lots of sectors of society who feel socially excluded. This is one reason I feel you should wait until the research that we are doing for the task force is completed because I am becoming increasingly moved about the experience of elderly people and people with disabilities. The PPG talks about accessibility but what do you mean by that? To planners it might just mean there is an open space on a plan that you can get to. I think there are three levels of accessibility. The first is is there an open space or a park close to where I live—because that is what most people want—or is it obstructed by a road or canal or something? Can I get to it? It is alright it being there, but can I get to it? Is my wheelchair going to tumble over on the way there because of the camber of the footpath or, if I am going in the car, is there somewhere I can park my car and safely get out and it is not a gravel surface so that I cannot get my wheelchair out and play with my kids. When I get there what is it like within the space? Issues like accessibility are mentioned but they need to be more fully informed by other work to say, "We do want to make these spaces more accessible for everybody's quality of life."

  383. Do I get the impression on the question of resources that what you are really saying to local authorities is, "Let your parks be run down because when they are nicely run down then you can apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund"?
  (Ms Woolley) No. You cannot do that for all parks because they are not historic. I am not saying that at all. I would be the last person to say run them down. It may be that in developing a strategy you might say, "Here is a space that is not valued by the community that is surplus to requirements and you might want to sell it off and develop it, but then let us make sure that we improve the other space around it." I am not suggesting that local authorities should on purpose run them down. I would love them to be able to put lots of resources in to improve them all but we have to be realistic and take things as they practically happen and aim for better things.

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

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