Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Third Report


The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee has agreed to the following Report:


Conclusions and Recommendations

This inquiry was held in response to widespread alarm at the failings of the draft revision to Planning Policy Guidance Note 17. In particular, there was dismay, expressed at length by the more than four hundred respondents to the consultation draft, at the painfully apparent "bolting on" of open space to the original PPG on sport and recreation. The Committee, as should be clear from its previous inquiries on urban open space, such as allotments, parks and cemeteries, has a long-standing interest in this subject, and we share many of the concerns expressed. The state of open space in our towns and cities remains a serious blight, diminishing the quality of life of their citizens. Unfortunately, this PPG fails to fulfil the expectations generated by the Urban White Paper (Our towns and cities: the future - Delivering an urban renaissance).[1] The draft is seriously flawed. Open space is not an add-on to recreation; it is where recreation and sport and many other informal and social activities take place: it should thus be the main subject of the report to which the various activities it accommodates are subservient. The haste with which open space has been tacked on is all too clear; it was ludicrous for example for DTLR to have proposed, as it did originally, that the PPG be published in advance of the conclusions of the Government's Urban Green Spaces Task Force. Other major shortcomings are the woefully lax use of terms such as formal and informal open space, the confusion of open space with sport and recreation facilities, and — given the advances in the past decade in understanding of the public realm and the urban environment — the lack of any definitions of open space other than the perfunctory words contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

We are pleased that, in response to the criticisms, the Government has agreed both to revise the PPG and to wait for the report of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force before it does so. However, the changes which Ministers proposed when they appeared before the Committee were inadequate. The revised PPG must

—  recognise the fundamental importance, over and above sport and recreation, of open space, to the Government's wider objectives for the urban renaissance and the quality of life;

—  emphasise the link between planning and management of open space; management may not be a planning issue but sustainability is, and unless planning takes into account the need to achieve good quality maintenance for new and existing open space, the contribution which open space can make to towns and cities is severely reduced;

—  indicate the overriding importance of existing spaces and their quality to the urban environment; the need to enhance them and the role of the planning system in achieving this;

—  indicate that new open spaces and facilities should not be created unless there has been an assessment of local need and unless there are the funds now and in the future to maintain them;

—  give clear guidance on how planning obligations can be used to bring about the enhancement of existing open space;

—  include a requirement that local authorities prepare open space strategies;

—  give much clearer guidance in accompanying process guidance on what should be addressed in an open spaces strategy, including the assessment of needs for open spaces, sport and recreational facilities, guidance on typologies, networks and hierarchies, standards and community participation;

—  acknowledge in its accompanying Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment the resource implication for local authorities in fulfilling the role which we and the Government expect them to play.

If the revisions which we propose are made, the new PPG can make a significant contribution to an urban renaissance.

1   November 2000, Cm 4911 Back

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