Examination of Witness (Questions 400-419)|
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
400. Draft PPG17 has been criticised for being
more concerned with quantity than quality, particularly in relation
to urban space. What would you say about that?
(Mr Rouse) I would agree with the criticism. Through
very good intentions and objectives, things like the National
Playing Field Association's Six-Acre standard have tended to lead
to quite a prescriptive approach to public open space which certainly
can help to ensure that you have the quantity, but does it have
the quality so that people want to use it? It is back to a point
that has already been made by one of the members, which is that
at the end of the day you have to allow for creativity and innovation
on the part of the developer. It is not just a tick-box mentality
that is needed here. It is the skills of housing developers or
a commercial developer to build a high quality space into their
development. If you take something like Broadgate in London, which
is a very well used public space,it has had a temporary
ice rink; it is a fun space; but it is not a very big spaceyet
thousands upon thousands of people use it every year.
401. Do we need more emphasis on maintaining
existing open space rather than developing new open space?
(Mr Rouse) That is also a very good point. Ninety
per cent of our urban fabric that exists now will still be here
in 30 years' time. There is a great danger of rushing ahead and
putting all the emphasis on providing new space when, say, local
authorities do not have the resources or the mechanisms for gaining
resources to manage and maintain it properly. One of the things
that PPG17 needs to do is to find a balance between the objective
of finding new space and making better use of that which we already
402. How do you think this can be addressed?
Can it be done through PPG17 or does it have to be done by other
means, such as more resources for local authorities?
(Mr Rouse) It can only be done partially, and only
very partially, through planning guidance. What is really important
here is the cross-cutting review on public space which is taking
place as part of the comprehensive spending review 2002. If there
is one conclusion that ought to come out of that review it is
that local authorities should have much stronger strategic management
responsibilities for the whole of their public realm within their
area of administration, something which they lack at the moment,
which is why there are so many problems in terms of the management
of urban areas.
403. Is the problem lack of defined responsibility
or lack of funding?
(Mr Rouse) Both. There is lack of defined responsibility.
There are too many areas which do not fall under anybody's control
and there are too many areas that fall under too many people's
control, our streets being one of them with nobody taking overall
responsibility. At the same time, if you look at the figures for
the other services block of local government SSA and the way that
they have been paid RSG over the last ten years, it is always
the Other Services Block that tends to suffer because money gets
given, quite understandably, for education, social services and
the like, but if you keep cutting and cutting, at the end of the
day the management of the space is going to suffer.
404. What are you saying? That the money spent
on parks, on cemeteries, public squares, streets, is not enough?
(Mr Rouse) Correct, and we have to be realistic. Some
of that may come back through the public purse through the comprehensive
spending review next time given that public space is now a priority
within that review. But we have to look to other mechanisms as
well. One is the future of section 106 agreements as part of the
planning reform process. At the moment it is very difficult for
local authorities to collect together contributions from different
development sites into what we might call the community chest.
If they had more freedom over how they could use those resources
it would allow them to put some of that back into the management
of public space.
405. I cannot find the exact place but somewhere
in your evidence you say that this ought to be the responsibility
of a mix of engineers and architects and people who have direct
involvement, and I think we all agree with that. Then you say
in paragraph 19: "CABE realises that there is a proliferation
of local strategies"and you set that out. Whilst not
supporting all the things that developers say, where would you
draw together all this indication so that they do not just read
the general guidance but they say, "To put this into operation
we will need to do X and Y"? Where can you give them that
(Mr Rouse) I am very aware of the burdens which are
on local authorities and the level of resources which they have
to cope with those burdens. They already have to pull together
a community strategy, a development plan, local transport strategy,
probably a local economic development plan, probably the local
cultural strategy. To then ask them on top of all that to do a
separate public realm strategy I think is not realistic. What
we have to do is to find ways of injecting our public realm objectives
into the strategies which they already have to prepare.
406. You actually mentioned the problems of
development plans. I want to do something in a particular area.
I am going to worry about the guidelines in terms of life quality.
Where do I find this bit?
(Mr Rouse) I would like to see it in the companion
guide to PPG17. You can pick up a single document and here are
ten things which I need to know that I have to do in order to
get a reasonably decent piece of public space.
407. Following on from that, quite a lot of
sectors believe that local authorities should have the responsibility
to provide open space strategy. The Rogers Report said that local
authorities should have to produce public realm strategies. I
think you are the first witness who has said no, they should not
produce a strategy. Why do you have a different perspective?
(Mr Rouse) What I am saying is that I do not think
they should be asked to start from scratch and produce yet another
document which will just sit on the shelf somewhere gathering
dust. What would be much more meaningful is underneath the development
plan to produce supplementary planning guidance which represented
a public realm strategy so that it had the status of a material
consideration under section 54(a) if it was challenged in terms
of a planning inquiry.
408. So basically you are saying that there
should be support for the UDP?
(Mr Rouse) Correct.
409. Should it be open space or should it be
(Mr Rouse) I prefer "public realm" but one
of the issues that comes out of PPG17 is that nobody has defined
these terms properly.
410. What is your definition of "public
(Mr Rouse) If you would like me to have a go at that
on a serious basis I would be prepared to put in some supplementary
evidence. To try and attempt that now would be difficult.
411. We need not only a definition of what you
think "public realm" means. We need to know the difference
between "public realm" and "public domain".
(Mr Rouse) I agree with you.
412. Why is it not in there? You have put everything
(Mr Rouse) I would prefer to have a proper go at it
and supply some supplementary evidence. We do need a typology
of public space. We need to know what we are talking about. At
the moment, as I say, at the start of our evidence the definition
excludes hard open space because it only talks about green space.
What about all these wonderful squares that we have in our towns
and cities, like Brindley Place, Leeds Millennium Square, Sheffield
Peace Gardens etc. Are they in the definition? They certainly
413. We also want a definition that the public
can understand, do we not?
(Mr Rouse) Yes.
Chairman: "Public realm" does seem
to be a little bit confusing for the public as well as, obviously,
you cannot trot out a definition.
414. It makes it sound like a hunting ground
for the royal household.
(Mr Rouse) The definition in the 1990 Act is not much
better. I wrote it down: "Land laid out as a public garden
or used for the purpose of public recreation or land which is
a disused burial ground". It is not really what we are trying
Chairman: We will look forward to that supplementary
Mrs Dunwoody: We are good at disused burial
415. The emphasis in the PPG is on green space.
Do you think too much emphasis is put on green space and not enough
on other kinds of space?
(Mr Rouse) I was probably a little bit rude but I
did say in CABE's evidence at the start that there was a sense
that this guidance reminded me of that 1970s film Kes where
Brian Glover is seen running across these inner city playing fields
with bleak urban landscapes. For me public space or public realm
is a much richer tapestry that includes playgrounds, squares,
home zone areas, skateboard parks. I think our public space at
the start of the 21st century is not just about pieces of green
injected into the urban fabric. It is much richer than that.
416. So do you think the remit of the PPG should
be extendable, or do we need another PPG again?
(Mr Rouse) No. It has taken us long enough to get
to this one. We have to have this PPG and we have to have it soon.
What the DTLR need to do is reflect on that richness by expanding
the definition and scope of public space within it. Hats off to
Sport England because they have really grabbed this PPG. It is
very sport orientated in terms of traditional sports but I do
not think really that is what the richness of our public space
417. May I just press you a little bit on that.
What would you exclude from civic space? Is it a street, public
space, an alleyway, an entry? Is that all civic space? I mean
everything except private and retail property.
(Mr Rouse) I think it is open space which the public
have access to. I think our streets are one of the most important
elements of our public realm. Clearly we want to avoid duplication
with PPG13 because that would cause a nightmare for developers
but I think it certainly goes broader than the current PPG17 articulates.
418. You have highlighted the PPG's lack of
explicit guidance on the design of recreational and sporting facilities.
Why do you think this is so important and how could PPG17 perhaps
better address the design of new facilities?
(Mr Rouse) Mainly through the work of the National
Lottery but also the success of some of our major sporting companies,
particularly some of our big football clubs, we have seen a proliferation
in recent years of new sporting facilities. CABE itself has recently
been involved in the new Arsenal stadium, in the new Everton stadium
at King's Waterfront in Liverpool, in the aborted Pickett's Lock
project and Wembley.
419. There are a lot of failures there.
(Mr Rouse) There is only one failure. I believe that
the Arsenal stadium is going to be a huge new success for north
London. What we have found is that there are certain principles
which come up time and time again in the planning of those facilities.
The first thing is that if you do not plan them as mixed use environments
with other uses around them then they become dead spaces. Having
major pieces of a city which are only used when the major events
are taking place is not satisfactory. A site such as King's Waterfront
or the site of the new Arsenal stadium should be in active use
at different times of the day and evening through the week. It
is not acceptable to waste urban space in that way.