Members present:

Andrew Bennett, in the Chair
Sir Paul Beresford
Mr Clive Betts
Mr John Cummings
Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody
Mrs Louise Ellman
Chris Grayling
Ms Oona King
Miss Anne McIntosh
Christine Russell


LORD FALCONER OF THOROTON, QC, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration, MS SALLY KEEBLE, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, MS JOYCE BRIDGES, Director Urban Policy Unit, and MR PETER MATTHEW, Urban Policy Unit, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, examined.


  1. Minister, could I welcome you back to the Committee. We are here to look at the question of public spaces. Could I ask to introduce your team?
  2. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Sally Keeble, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for housing, planning and regeneration, who also chaired the Urban Green Spaces Task Force; Joyce Bridges, who is the Director of the Urban Policy Unit; and Peter Matthew, who is also of the Urban Policy Unit and head of the secretariat that supported the Urban Green Spaces Task Force.

  3. Can I just point out to you that when we saw you last you did promise that we would be able to have a look at this Cross Cutting Review on approval of public spaces, which you seemed to think you were in charge of!
  4. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I initially said yes; I then thought about it in the next 25 seconds and said I would need to take advice; I then took advice and what I have been told is that the Cross Cutting Reviews are not being disclosed to select committees - there is a whole range of them going on - because they are, in effect, advice and discussion during the process of the Spending Review. If I had given it you then I would have been breaking with what the pattern across government was in relation to cross cutters. I am sorry about that.

    Mrs Dunwoody

  5. You are not telling anybody? You are quite consistent about it - you are not telling anybody?
  6. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am telling everybody, but in terms of the Cross Cutting Reviews, they are not being disclosed to select committees while the process of formulating cross cutting is going on.


  7. You precised it for us, although I gather you took out all the useful information when you precised it. Yes, we are grateful for the precis. I also understand that, after we have had the spending round, the document will be published so that we will be able to see then whether you were promoted or relegated as far as this is concerned?
  8. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A document will be published. There have been two reports already in relation to the Spending Review. What is published at the end of the Spending Review I am not quite sure what form it will be in; but subsequent in September, as indicated, or in the autumn, there will be a publication about the action plan which will also come out of the cross cutter.

  9. Is there anything you would like to say to the Committee?
  10. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Thank you very much for the opportunity to take part in this session on the Green Spaces Task Force and Public Space Cross Cutting Review. The work of the Task Force and the Cross Cutting Review both reflect the importance that the Government attaches to high quality public and open spaces. Survey evidence shows that the condition of people's neighbourhoods and local environment is a major local priority. Our streets and public spaces are something that we all experience everyday - on our way to work, school, shops, or for recreation and fun. If it is dirty, or if it feels unsafe, then people's quality of life is severely affected. But our public space agenda is not just about improving the local environment - there is an increasing appreciation that the quality of the public space has a much wider influence on issues at the macro level. There is a strong economic case for ensuring that attention is paid to the quality of public space locally - nobody wants to work or visit the shops in dirty, neglected areas and, consequently, few businesses, whether large or small, will want to invest in areas where the quality of public space has been allowed to deteriorate. This also contributes to people's decisions about where they live and whether to stay in urban areas. But despite the social and economic importance of high quality public space, other evidence indicates an overall decline in the quality of much of public space. The work of the Cross Cutting Review and Urban Green Spaces Task Force has identified a number of reasons as to why this is the case: the need for political leadership and priority for these issues centrally and locally; insufficient data, measures and targets on the quality of public space; diverse and fragmented responsibilities; insufficient and fragmented resources; and complex and unclear powers and legislation. It is now our job in central Government to drive forward the public space agenda, giving it the high level political leadership it needs, and developing a framework to support those organisations (chiefly local authorities) that manage the public space. Government is already doing a lot in this area - such as the Street Crime Initiative, Home Zones, Neighbourhood Wardens - and this needs to be drawn more closely together. This is one of the things that the Cross Cutting Review and the Task Force has looked to achieve. As you will have seen, the Urban Green Spaces Task Force Report makes a number of recommendations, which we are looking at closely. We will publish our formal response to that in the summer. Coming out of the Cross Cutting Review, we have already embarked on a review of the responsibilities and powers of local authorities to deal with public space nuisance. I expect a consultation paper on that review to be published in the autumn. I have also asked for a full report on our public space strategy also to be published in the autumn - building on the work already done by the Cross Cutting Review and the Task Force. This work continues to be a Cross Cutting exercise. Officials from a number of departments will be working up the specific recommendations for the report. For example, DEFRA officials are already working on a review of legislation. Although I cannot, at this point, say a great deal about the specific recommendations coming out of the Cross Cutting Review, I think there is an increasingly high priority to this issue in terms of our commitment to improve the quality of our public spaces, and I very much welcome the opportunity to discuss them today.

    Chris Grayling

  11. Minister, welcome back. Can I lead you a little bit further on the Cross Cutting Review. We may not be able to see it but I am sure you can enlighten us a bit more on the detail of the content. Can you tell us a bit more about the issues that it has highlighted as being the most important, and about the strategy for tackling those issues?
  12. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The main issue that the Cross Cutting Review is identifying is: what is the strategy which is required to improve the quality of public space. By "public space" it means streets, parks, rights of way, all areas, as it were, open to the public whether privately owned or in the hands of central or local government which form part of the local environment. The issues it is looking at are issues like: how do you provide the necessary political leadership at central and local government to raise the issue up the agenda? How do you bring together what are currently fragmented funding streams? How do you identify what is a good and what is a bad authority or body in relation to providing public space, both streets and parks? Also, what incentives you need to provide to increase performance. Those are the sorts of issues it is looking at - all with a view to increasing the quality of the public round.

  13. In terms of the response to you, you talked about cross departmental work taking place. Who is actually in overall charge of the response?
  14. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Minister responsible for the Cross Cutting Review is myself. A team based in the Treasury reports to me in relation to the Cross Cutting Review. There is an inter-departmental group of officials who support the work. Those officials come from the relevant departments; and the main relevant departments in terms of responsibility are DTLR, DEFRA and the Home Office.

  15. What difference are we likely to see between the green spaces work taking place in your Department by the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit and the Local and Regional Government Group?
  16. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One of the purposes of the Cross Cutting Review is to try to join up all of the strands within central government (though not only central Government) that impact on the quality of public space, including green spaces. The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit and, obviously, local government have both got significant policy responsibilities in that respect.

  17. Within the broad range of areas that the Review is covering, can we talk a bit about public safety, and what specific conclusions you have reached, and what work is now taking place in that area?
  18. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In terms of public safety, there are two separate issues. One of the reasons why some public spaces, whether it be streets or whether it be parks, are less used than they should be is because of people's fear of crime and fear of anti-social behaviour. There needs to be a coordinated response to try to reduce that aspect of the unsatisfactory nature of some public spaces and public streets. That requires coordinated activity between the Home Office, DTLR, local authorities and the police. Three particular things that are currently being done that are relevant to that are: first of all, neighbourhood wardens, which have a significant role to play in many places, and they are expanding throughout the country at the moment; secondly, the Community Safety Initiative which is being run from the Home Office, which seeks to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour; and, thirdly, issues around lighting, CCTV and other things that make people feel safe. Separately from that community safety issue there is the issue about danger to pedestrians from traffic, child pedestrian deaths, and that also is an issue that significantly impacts on the quality particularly of streets. Those two strands are being looked at.

  19. The Prime Minister has set out some fairly clear goals for tackling street crime in London and said it was going to be on the down by September. Has there been detailed work taking place behind the scenes as part of the work that you are discussing this morning that has helped him shape that view about future trends in street crime?
  20. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The work that is being done in the Cross Cutting Review has focussed much more on anti-social behaviour. It knows what is going on in relation to the Home Office's Street Crime Initiative, although it is not restricted to the Home Office. The two strands have been dealt with separately, but they obviously feed into each other to some extent. It would be wrong to say that the Street Crime Initiative has informed a significant part of the Cross Cutting Review; but obviously what we learn from that will play a significant part in the outcome.

  21. Lastly, with the work you have been doing about public safety clearly there has been a lot of discussion and criticism levelled at the court system, the judicial system, in relation to the presence of anti-social behaviour in relation to public safety issues. Does the remit of the Cross Cutting Review go so far as to address the issue of the judicial response to anti-social behaviour problems?
  22. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, we have not looked in detail at how the courts deal with anti-social behaviour. We have looked at issues about neighbourhood wardens, about policing, about making sure that fragmented responsibilities get joined up; but we have not considered the precise functioning of the criminal justice system. There have got to be limits to make the process manageable.

  23. But is that not a huge gap? If you have got a young person who is going round vandalising neighbourhoods and every now and again they are arrested and subjected to a caution or some other judicial slap on the wrist but end up with a sense that really nothing is happening about what they are doing so they carry on doing it - for all the things you could be doing here - surely the absence of that judicial dimension to your work could make what you are doing fairly futile?
  24. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You are absolutely right to say that a small number of criminals in an area can have a devastating effect on a public space; but the criminal justice system has been looked at in other parts of the government and it is right, I think, that they are absolutely focussing on the issue about how you deal quickly with those sorts of persistent offender. We think it is right that they should deal with that work. You are absolutely right to say it can have a major effect on the public realm, but I do not think there is any problem about it being dealt with separately.

    Mrs Ellman

  25. Could you give us any more examples of how fragmented responsibilities could become more joined up?
  26. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Fragmented responsibilities, for example, in relation to a city centre or a park, you could have the local authority responsible for the maintenance of the park or bits of the city centre, and the police responsible for dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour, and they do not adequately join up in the way they deal with those issues. You might have some bits of the city centre in private hands, other bits in local authority hands, and those two bits not joining up. Or you might have some parts of the park in the hands of educational establishments, some in the hands of a local authority, the police being responsible for ensuring there is not crime or anti-social behaviour there and, again, they do not join up.

  27. How are you going to get that joined up?
  28. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) First of all, we need to streamline the powers that people have, so that there is clarity about who is actually responsible and what powers they have. That has been dealt with by the legislative review that was announced a week or so ago that is going on under the auspices of DEFRA. Secondly, as the Green Spaces Best Places document suggests, one has to promote partnerships; one has to bring the people who do have responsibility together. That will become easier if each party involved knows who is legally responsible and what their actual powers are.


  29. Why is it DEFRA rather than your Department?
  30. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because the powers issue we thought would focus in part, though not wholly, on issues like street cleanliness, litter, dog fouling, bylaws in relation to cleanliness, environmental cleanliness, and those were issues that DEFRA had significant responsibility for. It is not exclusively DEFRA because there are quite a number of Home Office regulations and there are some DTLR regulations as well; but this is a Cross Cutting Review, somebody has got to drive it forward and, in the context of the Cross Cutting Review, DEFRA looked the most suitable and were keen to do it.

    Christine Russell

  31. Lord Falconer, can I ask you whether or not members of the Cross Cutting Review are concerned that in many parts of the country there does seem a reluctance on the part of local authorities and police to really promote anti-social behaviour orders in order to combat the yob culture that blights their communities?
  32. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, we are. As I said in answer to Chris' question, one of the issues that makes parks/streets unuseable, unattractive places is the level of crime and anti-social behaviour. To free up those places for people we need to promote a sense that the streets are safer, the parks are safer, and they are more inclined to go. Yes, we are concerned about it. Yes, the Home Office and the police input in relation to this is absolutely vital to make it a success; but they are other ways - neighbourhood wardens etc - which play a part in this.

  33. Whose responsibility is it to actually encourage greater use of those Orders?
  34. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is central government responsibility. The Home Office is responsible for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, but my Department is responsible for local government. My Department is responsible for the urban policies set out in the Urban White Paper; and one of the critical issues in the Urban White Paper, which we are following through in the Cross Cutting Review, is to make the public realm desirable and places that people want to go to. We have got a responsibility as well.

  35. Could I ask you a second point on the public safety issue. How helpful do you consider it would be, if this is a matter you have discussed, that the police - especially community safety officers - actually get involved with local authority planning departments when new developments are actually being planned? I know all the evidence shows that the more people there are on the streets the safer the streets are. So many problems have been created by muggers' alleyways and bad planning.
  36. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think very, very much so. We have produced some guidance in relation to this to design out crime; but practical engagement between the local planning authority and the police would make a real difference.

  37. How willing are the police to get involved with that?
  38. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think in principle the police are willing to address the issue of how you try to design out or reduce the prospect of crime. Whenever one goes to places where crime is prevalent in a particular geographical location and the police are there, they are very good at identifying what actually promotes crime - like dark alleyways, like places where you get away easily. I think they would be very keen to be engaged. It is an important issue, because the design of public spaces is just as important as how you manage them.

    Mr Cummings

  39. How do you measure your success rate?
  40. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think there is a real problem about how you measure success. One of the things that the Cross Cutting Review focusses on is what measures of success are there? Are there adequate measures of success? If there are not, how do you create them? Without those measures of success people will not be able to see what their local authority are doing. Equally, if one of the intentions is to provide incentives to people - local authorities to improve public space - you will not know to whom to provide rewards unless you know who is doing what.

  41. Public patience is certainly being stretched to its limit at the present time. Everyone seems to be offloading responsibility on to someone else. The figures are quite startling. Since regulations were brought forward in this House to deal with social disorder there have been virtually no Anti-Social Behaviour Orders issued. Why?
  42. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In some places they have been used effectively. If one looks, for example, at Manchester they have used Anti-Social Behaviour Orders effectively. They have got procedures in place whereby they can get them, and get them quickly. Good practice in some local authorities can be replicated. We recognise that there are some procedural difficulties, and the Home Office have made announcements about how they will streamline the process of making it easier.

  43. At the present time everyone in authority is being made a laughing stock of?
  44. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think every single -----

  45. My area, of which I have first-hand knowledge, is certainly no different from hundreds of others throughout the country?
  46. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am told the total number of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders which have been granted is 518. I think what we need to do is spread best practice so people know how it can be done; and also to look to see where the procedural ditches are, which is what the Home Office have done, and then introduce changes to make it easier.

    Ms King

  47. Local consultation has shown that one of the reasons people are often scared of using parks and public spaces is their perceived fear comes from the presence of large groups of young people and teenagers, which puts off other teenagers as well as all age groups. Have the Urban Green Spaces Task Force or the Cross Cutting Review considered this particular problem, and what have been their recommendations?
  48. (Ms Keeble) We have looked at that. One of the things we did was to do some research amongst young people, looking at the 13-18 year old age range. We looked at the type of activities they required. One of the recommendations contained in the report and the supporting documents is about the need to make sure that parks and green spaces cater for children and young people - recognising that older children have got very different needs from the tiny tots and you have to make proper provision for them. That is something we have recognised.

    Mr Cummings

  49. I want to refer to the new buzz word, Minister, "liveability" as communicated by the Prime Minister. How do we measure liveability? What targets has the Government set for it What action will your Department be taking to ensure that it meets these targets?
  50. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have heard of the buzz word "liveability" a well.


  51. You were not responsible for passing it on, were you?
  52. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have been responsible from time to time of passing it on, but I certainly did not invent it. I think it is trying to convey the idea that the place in which you live, when you step outside your front door, is somewhere where you actually want to be. It is somewhere which is liveable; and somewhere where you are comfortable. It goes back to the question you asked a few moments ago: are there sufficient targets, for example, about litter, about graffiti, about abandoned cars, about levels of anti-social behaviour and about usability of public parks? There most certainly are not at the moment. The only real guide and best value indicators that there are at the moment is a three-yearly customer satisfaction survey about green spaces in the area. We do not think that is enough. One of the things that the Cross Cutting Review has been focussing on particularly is how do you develop measures, targets, indications to the people both locally and at the central government level, who is doing well and who is doing badly. Without those measures, as I say, you will not know who to reward, and you will not be able to identify who is doing badly in relation to the issue.

  53. Can you just give us one example?
  54. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) One way of looking at it is to have a range of indicators like customer satisfaction with green spaces, amount of use of green spaces, levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, quantities of litter, quantity of complaints about litter. I think the more one looks at it the more one sees you have to have a range of indicators producing a result at the end.

    Mr Cummings

  55. Who would be responsible for ensuring priorities are met?
  56. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The person almost primarily responsible would be the local authority in most cases.

  57. The Committee understand that the Government has dropped some of the best value public space indicators. Has this made it more difficult to monitor progress?
  58. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The only best value performance indicator we have got is the customer satisfaction survey. Some best value indicators have been dropped but I do not think they related to green space, but I may be wrong about this.

    (Ms Bridges) There needs to be a rationalisation of best value indicators. The problem is, there is no single best value performance indicator covering performance on public spaces or green spaces. What we had was a rather disparate group of best value indicators.


  59. We had some proxies in the past and you got rid of those. Can you just remind us which of those proxies you got rid of?
  60. (Ms Bridges) We are not sure.

  61. Perhaps we could have a note.
  62. (Ms Keeble) On the green spaces indicator, there was a lot of discussion in the Task Force about those, and about the value and use of them. We had looked at having a couple based on customer satisfaction. In the end we decided to go for locally-determined indicators, which would be about the usage level and also local satisfaction with the spaces. That is what the Task Force recommended rather than having single national indicators.

    Mr Cummings

  63. To what extent will green spaces feature in the Urban Summit programme which is to be held in Birmingham in October/November?
  64. (Ms Bridges) We are currently finalising a programme for the Urban Summit, but there will be a series of Cross Cutting theme sessions, probably about 20 sessions, one of which will be about green spaces in the city and all the issues around the green spaces. There will certainly be another session on the whole public space agenda, and probably one on urban design as well. The agenda will be covered both in individual sessions, but also with the threads running through quite a lot of the discussions. We plan to publish the programme next month.

  65. The Commission for Integrated Transport found that the United Kingdom has the lowest amount of walking per capita in Europe. What do you intend to do about this?
  66. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is an incredibly important issue. It very much contributes to the quality of space. It is something which has got to be taken up in transport planning, and is being taken up in transport planning, but it connects in with the public space agenda.

    Mrs Dunwoody

  67. What does mean?
  68. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It means: do we take seriously the fact that people have to find it easier to walk on the streets? Answer: yes, we do. Is that the position now? No, it is not. Therefore, we need to raise that issue up. It cannot be done just by the public space agenda alone; it also has to be reflected in transport planning in the long term.

  69. Which is also part of your responsibility - not you personally. Could you give us a four-point plan of how you get from here to there?
  70. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I cannot give you a four-point plan in relation to it, but the importance of it is recognised and it has got to play a part in relation to the public space agenda overall.

    (Ms Keeble) It is actually one of my responsibilities.

  71. Life is full of little problems!
  72. (Ms Keeble) I know. Under the typology of green spaces, which is what the select committee asked about last time, we have recognised the importance of linear parks, canal walkways and things like that. That obviously helps if you are putting together a strategy to help and encourage people to walk. Amongst the issues the Department is doing to promote walking has been issues like supporting moves to get children walking to school; safety with their friends; walking and cycling to work. There is a range of measures and packs of information we have done on that as well. We are also promoting tourism without traffic, which looks at environmentally friendly ways to have holidays which encourages walking as well as a leisure activity. We are doing quite a lot of work. Also targets which are promoted through the local transport plans.

    Mr Cummings

  73. Is not Sheffield City Council flying in the face of everything you have just told us? They intend to double the period of time for pedestrians crossing roads in order to ease congestion.
  74. (Ms Keeble) Obviously it is down to local authorities to follow through on their transport plans. For example, the work on walking to work and walking to schools is also down through employer groups, and also through education authorities. You are going to get local authorities which take particular decisions for particular reasons, and that might be related to congestion. They might also have a separate strategy for walking. We have got measures in place to encourage walking in a whole range of different settings.


  75. Is it not really true that the car is much more important than people in most local authority strategies at the moment?
  76. (Ms Keeble) If you look at town centre design, I think increasingly that is not becoming the case. That is really Charlie's patch more than mine. If you actually look at town centre design, if you look at places like Newcastle, which is a particularly good example, and Birmingham, they are in fact going to great lengths to give pedestrians priority in the town centre areas. Some of them are doing very innovative work.

  77. We will come on to town centres in a moment. Part of this discussion about liveability is what is outside your front door. I have a constituent who came to my advice bureau on Friday complaining that his children could not safely cross the corner of the street because of the level of parked cars. Is that not an indication that actually liveability is being reduced because of the number of cars we have got in some of our tightly drawn urban areas?
  78. (Ms Keeble) If you also look at some of the measures coming out of this Department, they actually encourage much more constructive use of streets and pavements. For example, if you look at the Home Zones Initiative which actually redesigns residential areas to make sure, yes, people can park outside their front door, which is what people want, but also they are designed in such a way that the public can also use those spaces much more safely, and we do not get the cars dominating the public areas and they can be properly used by members of the public, pedestrians and children wanting to play and the rest of it.

    Mrs Ellman

  79. Does the Department do any breakdown of the Local Transport Plans, as it were, between the amount of spending for highways and bridges and the amount for pedestrians?
  80. (Ms Keeble) We do an analysis obviously of the annual returns on the Local Transport Plans and that is something I have been particularly pushing, and we look at how they are meeting a whole range of targets. I do not think we do a breakdown of the spend in precisely the way that you are suggesting. It is certainly something we could go back and look at. I would be very happy to do that. At the moment, because the whole Local Transport Plan process is quite new, the last annual returns we had were the first and they tended just to set a base line, rather than being very helpful in terms of analytical data. We are doing work to improve that and hope in the coming years we will be able to extract much more comparative information out of that. I will certainly take that one back.

  81. The Institute of Civil Engineers' tell us in their annual survey they believe half of the Local Transport Plan funding is expected to be on highways and bridges, and 5-10 per cent on pedestrian measures. Would that breakdown surprise you, and would it give you any concern?
  82. (Ms Keeble) It would not surprise me; it would give me a certain amount of concern. I will certainly go back and have a look. We have only had one round of annual returns back on the Local Transport Plan; we are due for the next one in July. I will take that back and see if we can get some kind of analysis that will pick up on the issues you have identified. If you look at the work that is being done on road safety, on pedestrian access and on Home Zones in particular, I think we are starting to get a different look at the way in which roads and pavements are used.

  83. Do you know how many new pedestrian areas have been put forward in the Local Transport Plans?
  84. (Ms Keeble) No. I can go and check again and see if we have got that information through the Local Transport Plans, but I doubt it.

  85. What about a public realm strategy - do you ask local authorities if they have a public realm strategy; and is that something the Department is pursuing?
  86. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is not a question that they raise at the moment. It is something in the context of raising public realm up the agenda that we need to consider in the context of the Cross Cutting Review and the policy conclusions that come out of that. It is part of a process of focussing local authorities and other players as well on the issue.

    Christine Russell

  87. Could I ask you quickly if one of the other items you will have a look at again is the regulations governing residents and parking schemes because they are a nonsense at the moment. You can have a typical Victorian terraced street where you have vehicles parked on both sides. I do not know if you are aware but when a residents' parking scheme goes in you can only have that on one side of the street because of the width of the designated spaces. In fact, from a pedestrian/public safety point of view, the conditions are worse after the scheme has gone in. Are you aware of that; and, if you are not, will you have a look at it?
  88. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I was not aware of that. Presumably it depends on the particular street. We will certainly have a look at that.

  89. No, they are national rules.
  90. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I thought you were saying it blocks the street if there is parking on both sides?

    Christine Russell: No, what I am saying is, at the moment there is parking on both sides and, therefore, vehicles have to travel at quite a low speed to go between vehicles; but when a residents' parking scheme goes in, because of the regulations the width of the parking boxes has to be so wide that you can only have the scheme on one side of the street, which means you then have a race track on the other side.

    Chairman: Perhaps you could look at that for us.

    Ms King

  91. CABE and DTLR have commissioned a report on the institutional obstacles to raising quality in the public realm, which we were just discussing. Some say that a really good example of an institutional obstacle in the public realm is the DTLR's Traffic Advisory leaflets.
  92. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is an institutional obstacle?

  93. Apparently so. It is an example of an institution providing an obstacle to progress in this area, because the critics say that Britain's streets are turning into a bit of a dog's breakfast at the moment. We have got all sorts of technicolour road markings going every which way; we have got uncoordinated street signs going up. It is all right if you are on acid but otherwise it is an obstacle and all over the place. What people would like to know is, what is your Department doing to reduce the clutter that is accumulating in the public realm of Britain's streets?
  94. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In terms of road signs?

  95. Yes, because you know that the Traffic Signs Regulations and Parking Act has led to a plethora of uncoordinated signs going up.
  96. (Ms Keeble) There are actually some very tight regulations around signs. We have huge design manuals with all the different types of signs and discussions about the colours of them as well. I have to say that there are probably more representations about people who want to do their own signs than people who are prepared to forego their independence and to stick with the kind of signage and the conformity that the Department encourages. If people have made comments it is interesting and we ought to look at it. I have to say, it runs somewhat against some of the experience in the Department with people wanting very, very specific types of street signage which are just particular to their village or their locality.

  97. When you say you encourage them to not go down their own route -----
  98. (Ms Keeble) There are detailed manuals, and we can make sure the Committee has them. They of mind-boggling length, and they have pictures of all kinds of street signs and all the possibilities. If you have too much different signage it is actually unsafe because the drivers become fixated by it; there are restrictions on what people can do. For example, one of the things people do is write to the Department applying to have their village's slogan on the street sign; and there is a lot of angst when you say, "They're not supposed to be doing this" for just the kinds of reasons you have identified. We can go back and have a look at that. There are strong counter-arguments that come from local interest groups who want their own street signs.

    Mrs Dunwoody

  99. That is because there is not a degree of clear thinking from the Department about what its priorities are. The villages in my constituency want very clear and pretty hideous signs which say "Slow 30mph", because they have had deaths, because they do not comply with the terms the police use as being sufficient evidence to have all sorts of extra constraints. Therefore, they want to take action. One of their immediate actions is to look for some kind of signage which is not acceptable. If the Department had some way of coordinating its transport schemes so that there was certainly a feeling in rural areas there was some protection, then there would not be this drive to have independent schemes, would there?
  100. (Ms Keeble) I think there actually would be. We can obviously look, and we would look very carefully, at anything CABE has got to say in terms of the impact that street signs have on the design of roads. I do think it is fair to point out that there is pressure from particular areas that might want particular colours on their street signs or might want particular slogans.

  101. All they want is safety actually. If you convinced them that your signage is so effective they will respond well. Villages want constraints outside schools; they want some control over speeds through the urban part of the village; they want clear indications that the Department has thought about the implications. What happens is that, of course, all the standards used are formulaic (and one can understand why) and dependent upon how many deaths and how many bad accidents.
  102. (Ms Keeble) No, it is not. Would it be helpful if we provided to the Committee the guidance and the information on street signs (which is very, very compendious) of some of the things people want to enforce - a particular character of a village, or put up some sort of general slogan, so people do have particular views. We will let you have the documentation and guidance we have and, of course, we will look at what CABE has got to say about the design of street signs.

    Mrs King

  103. In your response to our report on Walking, the Government indicates that it was going to publish consolidated guidance on street design. Do you know when this will appear; has it already appeared; and what is its main thrust?
  104. (Ms Keeble) We have issued some documents, and I will make sure you have them.

    Mr Betts

  105. One of the issues that really annoys people is the issue of roadworks and pavement works. As I understand it the Government has issued the attempts to improve the quality of the public realm By Design and Best practice in street works and highways works. Are we seeing any effect from that; or when will we see some effect from that?
  106. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There are various things we are doing. There is that; there is lane rental; there is the charging once the agreed timetable is exceeded, and some millions of pounds have been received in terms of over-payments for going over the extended timetable. I do not know what the figures are to suggest what that has done. I can provide the Committee with that. They remain, as you have said, an issue that is constantly raised and constantly irritates people.

  107. Do you have any information about the lane rental schemes that have just started, one in Middlesbrough and one in Camden?
  108. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They started in April, but I have not got any information.

    (Ms Keeble) We have not got the data yet because they have only just now started.

  109. April rather than the beginning of the year. Can we have some information about any monitoring about that. Have the Government any other suggestions about how we might tackle the issues in the future?
  110. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The lane rental proposal is, as you rightly say, only Middlesbrough and Camden at the moment. The issue is, once one sees how it works, one expands that. Also, how one ensures that there is better coordination and that, I assume, means more guidance.

  111. The principle of lane rental is one the Government supports, and is merely looking at how it is implemented in practice?
  112. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously we have got to learn the lessons from Middlesbrough and Camden. I think the issue is how, and not whether.

    Mr Cummings

  113. I was a local authority member in 1979 and we were talking about these problems then. How much information does the Department require? It would be interesting to find out how many surveys have been carried out over the last 32 years. Yet, in the area where I live at the present time, the Gas Board is there on the green space one week and the Electricity Board is there the next week. It has gone on now for the 30 years I have been involved in public life and we do not seem to be making any progress whatsoever.
  114. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a real problem. The problem is about getting the utilities, local authorities and relevant users to actually coordinate they way they do it.

  115. You just put a regulation down and you enforce them to do it.
  116. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is an Act of 1991 that gives power to local authorities to coordinate but it does not actually provide that they can prevent the utilities; because the utilities frequently in emergencies have got to dig up the road.

  117. Do we not require new laws requiring them to do so?
  118. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think the issue is: will the time-tabling, the coordination and the lane rentals, which is what has just started in Camden and Middlesbrough, make a difference?

    Mrs Ellman

  119. When will the Government's Walking Strategy be published?
  120. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know.

    (Ms Keeble) The Walking Strategy is in preparation and we will have to give you details as to that.

  121. Have you any idea at all?
  122. (Ms Keeble) I do not know. The local authorities clearly have that to include in their Local Transport Plans.

  123. What sort of input has the Cross Cutting Review and the Urban Green Spaces Task Force had into that strategy? Can you tell us any ways in which it has been influenced by those?
  124. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) As far as the Cross Cutting Review is concerned, those officials responsible for developing the Walking Strategy have been involved in preparing the Cross Cutting Report. The DTLR, and it is the same bit of the DTLR, has been responsible for that. As far as the Urban Green Spaces Task Force is concerned, I am not sure.

    (Mr Matthew) I think we have provided a team with some information about green spaces, particularly the role of green spaces in terms of providing the routes for safe walking. The earlier material we generated was passed on to you.

  125. Can you give us any examples or clues about the sorts of issues that have been assisted in this way?
  126. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The sorts of issues are: there are road safety issues; there are school travel plan issues; there are towpath, public rights of way issues; access issues; so quite a lot of issues referred to in the Walking Strategy also come up in the public realm issue.

  127. Has the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment been consulted for the preparation of this strategy?
  128. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know.

    (Ms Bridges) The Pedestrian Association, now called Living Streets, are very heavily involved in the development of restricted areas.


  129. What is the point of having the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment? I would have thought this ought to have been consulted as far as the Walking Strategy is concerned.
  130. (Ms Bridges) I am pretty certain they will be consulted.

  131. They will be, but they have not been?
  132. (Ms Bridges) I do not think they have.

    Ms King

  133. There is a lot of opinion that says we have solved problems through good design, but a lot of our submissions have repeatedly stated, again and again, that if we do not have maintenance in areas like parks, for example, it is futile. How are we going to improve the maintenance and, critically, revenue for maintenance?
  134. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Both issues are important - design and maintenance. In relation to design, the way that you design the public space may well affect how easy or difficult it is to maintain, so the two are connected up and both are important. As far as maintenance is concerned, it is about the quality of people doing it; and the Green Spaces Better Places Task Force specifically identifies a skills loss over the last 20 years, which is important. It is also about focussing expenditure. The Green Spaces Better Places document also focusses on the fact that expenditure has not been well targeted. It also involves identifying which are the priorities in relation to the maintenance of public spaces. There are also issues about the amount of resources going into maintenance. It is the quality of people doing it; it is how they are focussed; and the amount of them.

  135. Sally, you launched this in Mile End Park. Why did you choose Mile End Park?
  136. (Ms Keeble) Because it was a particularly good example of use of an inner urban green space, and they had done some particularly important things about reconciling some quite competing and conflicting usages. It was also because one of people closely involved in it was a member of the Task Force, and it was a very good opportunity to promote an important park.

  137. Mile End Park is, in my view, one of the most fantastic parks on the planet. That is my unbiased view as the local Member of Parliament, and as a resident who uses it daily, or at least weekly! It is very distressing that the maintenance of the park is an incredibly serious problem. There are some pictures here to show that, for example, a lot of the light fittings have all been damaged and destroyed. In defence of the council, it is a fact that the contractors promised that these were all vandal-proof. The council is now going to be entering into a dispute with the contractor because they obviously are not vandal-proof. The key point is this, is it not: you would never build a leisure centre, for example, and not expect to have staff working in it and not provide on going revenue for staff working in it, manning it and ensuring its good function; but this appears to be the strategy that most local authorities fall into when it comes to parks. How are we going to address that fundamental problem?
  138. (Ms Keeble) The Task Force considered at great length the issue about financial arrangements for parks. You see in the recommendation on the capital they also looked at issues about the revenue and the maintenance. There was a strong view that out of the EPCS block of local government spending that the parks had suffered in comparison, for example, with indoor leisure centres, and that that needed to be redressed. The Task Force makes a particular recommendation about having a senior member or a scrutiny committee with particular responsibility at looking at this particular issue. It also identifies a skills shortage that was mentioned previously and, therefore, the need to up the training. It also identifies a fact that there was a big loss (although this will not particularly affect Mile End Park) of both the financial base and the skills level and a deterioration of the upkeep when CCTV was introduced because that stripped a lot of financing out of the contract for parks maintenance. It also looks at the role that friends and user groups have.


  139. You are identifying a problem; what we are asking you about is the solution.
  140. (Ms Keeble) I said about having a lead member or a scrutiny committee at the local authority level who can provide leadership at the local level and make sure that the parks get their fairer share out of the EPCS block at the local level. That is one of the key issues, in addition to the design, and also the training issues that need to be dealt with as well.

    Ms King

  141. Does the fact that there has been a Cross Cutting Spending Review of public space mean that there will be more money available for public space in the future?
  142. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You can draw no conclusions of any sort as to what the outcome might be of the Comprehensive Spending Review of the Cross Cutting Review.

  143. Is that a no?
  144. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That came out of my mouth without reference to a note!

    Chairman: It is going that badly!

    Christine Russell

  145. If there was more money, could I ask you a hypothetical question: do you think that money would be allocated direct to local authorities; or do you think it would perhaps be part of Lottery monies?
  146. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) First of all, there is plainly a role for the Lottery, particularly in relation to capital for new public space, and that is a matter to be taken up by the Lottery and it is very, very important. Oona's point is just as important - you have got to have means by which, once you have got new public space, you can actually maintain it. There needs to be a real focus on maintaining the public space that one has got. As far as local authorities are concerned, it is for them in the main to determine how they spend their money. A critical issue in relation to the Cross Cutting Review is, what are the processes by which local authorities will regard the maintenance of public space as an important issue; because in the long term it is mainstream funding with those who are responsible for maintaining the public space that will determine long term maintenance.

  147. Therefore, if we all consider that the maintenance of parks and open spaces is vitally important, should it not then be made a statutory responsibility of local authorities to do just that?
  148. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We would hope that local authorities would recognise the importance of the responsibility in relation to public space. The Local Government White Paper is saying to local government, "You have to determine your local priorities." The message that is coming loud and clear from a whole range of sources is that the public realm is an increasing priority.


  149. If you were revising, as I think the Department is, the standard spending assessment, if you do not want to go for ring fencing, why not give local authorities a certain amount of money on the basis of the number of people who use each of their parks?
  150. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A formulaic approach for the amount of money given in the EPCS, but not ring fencing it?

  151. Yes. Surely you ought to give some local authorities some bonus for having parks that people want to go into?
  152. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not sure about the specific idea that you have suggested.

  153. You give me a better idea. I do not mind what idea you come up with.
  154. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We need to see if there are ways of providing funding that reward good delivery in relation to public space. I am not sure about the proposal that you have made.

  155. Let us have a better one.
  156. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What you do not want to do is to have lots and lots of initiatives with lots and lots of small amounts of money. What you need to see is if there is some sort of targeted money that could be made available where there is good performance in relation to public space. The precise details of it may not be right for me to seek to formulate now but what you are looking at is: can funding be made available, perhaps not part of the block given to local government, where you can see rewards for good performance?

    Mrs Ellman

  157. The task force report identifies a deficit of 126 million in its public park assessment. What does the Treasury have to say about that?
  158. (Ms Keeble) That is what the task force says and the information they use is information that came out of one of our parks assessments. There is no dispute about the figure. The dispute is how we make good the deficit. One of the issues that the task force was very concerned about was that at present there is virtually no mechanism by which you can put money into parks through local authority budgets and make sure it gets there. That is one of the reasons why the task force makes a range of different proposals to get funding from external sources directly into parks.

  159. Surely, if the Department wanted to deal with that issue, you could issue guidance to local authorities who should put more funding into that area. You could provide more through the SSA for that purpose and put that in your guidance.
  160. (Ms Keeble) The government has yet to make its response to the task force recommendations and that response is obviously going to come out in July. That will have to deal with the funding issues. We are dependent on the review. I am explaining what the task force thinking was in using those figures but also in looking forward as to how to deal seriously with the spending deficit on parks and make sure that the money that is intended to go to parks goes directly there, which is why we have mentioned the Lottery, Barclays and Site Savers and there is mention of dealing with the skills deficit. The big focus is that the task force went for capital rather than revenue funding with 100 million a year over five years.

  161. What is the government thinking about how to provide extra funding for this purpose?
  162. (Ms Keeble) That we have to look at and will put in the response in July.

  163. Will all of that be in time to go into the spending review?
  164. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The spending review will come out by the end of July. The response to the task force's report will obviously have to be coordinated with the spending review. Louise's questions are about is there going to be more money made available for local government so spend on public space. I cannot tell you at the moment, but whatever is said in response to this will be consistent with what happens in relation to the spending review.


  165. Do you feel happy in this role of chairing the task force and then you are going to respond to the task force? It is asking yourself for permission, is it not?
  166. (Ms Keeble) It was something that was raised and there were some discussions about it. It was absolutely right to have a minister to chair the task force because I think it provided it with forward movement. It also made it possible to continue to take up the work and continue with it and not just sit and wait for the government response. We have already talked about having the enablers fund. We do not have the amount yet but we are going to get the modelling done. We have the interim committee set up and that is going on. We have the extra demonstration projects. It has meant that, instead of having a report come in and then everybody sits about and waits for the government response, it has been possible to continue and keep the momentum up and take it forward. By and large, whilst it has occasionally involved members of the task force having to think carefully about what they want their chair to do, I think it has been very constructive.

  167. I am sure they want their chair to come up with a strong report and then to say yes to the report.
  168. (Ms Keeble) Of course they do, but I think it has been a very constructive way of working and I think it has produced a good report which has been possible to carry forward as well.

    Mr Cummings

  169. One of the most welcome recommendations of the task force was the 500 million which has been allocated initially over a five year period for spending on urban green parks. The New Opportunities Fund is referred to as possibly providing some of this additional funding. What is the response from the spending review to this?
  170. (Ms Keeble) We are obviously going to have to wait for that or we are going to have to wait for what happens to the spending review for any extra money from the public purse. Obviously, the government is going to come up with its full response to the task force proposals in July.

  171. Are you optimistic?
  172. (Ms Keeble) I think the task force has made a very clear case and they have been very focused on making sure that their recommendations will feed right into public spaces and not disappear into a general, local government kitty. Based on the track record of what has happened with spend in this area in terms of Barclays, Site Savers and Groundwork and the Lottery, there is reason to think it is within reach.

  173. Lottery funding for public spaces has been very disappointing. Will the Lottery be providing more funding for public spaces following the cross-cutting review?
  174. (Ms Keeble) For green spaces, it has been quite good, something like 250 million a year. For public spaces, it has been different.

    (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) According to the report, the Heritage Lottery Fund has had a 250 million urban parks programme and the New Opportunities Fund launched a scheme worth about 80 million to support improvements to urban green spaces in England, so it has spent over 320 million.

  175. Over what period of time?
  176. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Over the last three years.


  177. It is not a lot of parks, is it?
  178. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is quite a lot of money.

  179. There is a difference. Not many parks are really benefiting from it.
  180. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is the money that has been spent. What the report is saying is it is 100 million of the 500 million under- investment over a period of time and we need to talk to the Lottery about what contribution they can make, but there is a critical point. If there is a problem about maintaining existing parks, there needs to be a focus on that just as much as on the capital expenditure in relation to new parks.

  181. It is even worse than that, is it not, because, as I understand it, the Lottery Fund insists that if they give money for history parks to be done up, the local authority then commits itself to do the maintenance of that for the next ten years and that may well be at the expense of other parks in their area.
  182. (Ms Keeble) That is also perhaps why local authorities need the strategic approach, which is what the task force also suggests, where it focuses not just on the large spaces but also the small spaces which often get hopelessly overlooked. You can look at a whole series of small spaces which have been funded either through the work that Barclays have done or through some of the Lottery money which has transformed areas and added to the usable green space, particularly in some of the disadvantaged areas in the inner cities. There are some very spectacular examples around London and other cities.

    Christine Russell

  183. Can I ask you a very provocative question? In view of the fact that many of our grass playing pitches are little used, in very poor condition, the subsidy that goes into them is probably the highest of any sporting subsidy, if you look, per player who participates. Is it time to review the policy that prevents the building on playing pitches, when you balance the fact of their condition against the fact that in so many parks in the country there is this huge need for affordable housing and the largest deterrent to affordable housing is the cost of land?
  184. (Ms Keeble) We already have strategies for dealing with sports fields. Sport England has worked very closely with the Department on the new guidance being planned and is also a very constructive member of the task force as well. They have worked very closely with us to look at the issues around making sure that we balance housing needs with needs for sports areas and open spaces. They have been very important in highlighting the needs of smaller spaces, not just the larger spaces. One of the themes that runs through the task force report is the need to ensure that, where you have new housing even in the inner city areas, you have proper provision of green spaces. Sport England lobbies hard for the play areas as well.

  185. My question was are you prepared to look again at the policy in the light of finding a socially beneficial, alternative use for these little used pitches.
  186. (Ms Keeble) To look at the protection for the small areas?

  187. Yes.
  188. (Ms Keeble) We gave the Committee a look at that previously, did we not?

  189. No; the fact that there is a hard and fast rule at the moment which prevents development on playing fields.
  190. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There is a presumption against it but it can take place. I do not think we have any intention to look at that.


  191. Would it not be reasonable to say, "Yes, you can have that presumption as long as the pitch is playable on for at least a fortnight in the year"? There are some local authorities who have pitches, supposedly green, and you get stuck in the mud for nine months of the year.
  192. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We say the presumption continues but there are circumstances in which playing fields can be used. We have no plans to change the policy.

    Mr Betts

  193. How does the government believe that Business Improvement Districts will work to enhance public spaces? Have you any ideas about how you are going to attract local businesses to get involved?
  194. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Local businesses will get attracted to BIDs if they see the area which they are in enhanced and therefore their business enhanced. The area in which they are will be enhanced if more money is spent on the area and there is clarity about who is responsible for doing what. The obvious example is the shopping centre in a city centre or the city centre with shops in it. The retailers there will be attracted to BIDs if they lead to improvements in the city centre and a coordination of responsibility for dealing with antisocial behaviour, dealing with cleanliness, dealing with making it attractive for people to come there.

  195. Business would be quite happy to make a contribution towards these issues?
  196. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think they will in many cases and there are places where, on a voluntary basis, they are doing it at the moment.


  197. For instance?
  198. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They are discussing it in the BIDs south of the river.

  199. You said they are doing it and then you said they are discussing it. I asked you where they had done it.
  200. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not sure they are actually doing it south of the river at the moment but the fact that they are planning it without legislation indicates they are willing to do it without legislation.

    (Ms Bridges) The Central London Partnership is leading on a programme of five BID type exercises around central London, one in Waterloo, one in Paddington, one in Holborn and I cannot remember where the other two are.

  201. You can go and see the benefits of this as opposed to people talking about it?
  202. (Ms Bridges) I am sure they would be delighted to show you because they are very proud of the work that has been done so far, but it is still work in progress. Quite a few other cities are well down the road of setting up voluntary BIDs - Birmingham, for example, in New Street is in advanced negotiations with its retailers. There is quite a lot of interest.

    Mr Betts

  203. Are we going to get legislation on this in the Local Government Bill?
  204. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The intention is to legislate in the Local Government Bill, yes.

  205. Moving to the issue of 106 agreements, they have been used quite regularly by authorities to look at additional community benefits when housing schemes are involved. Do you think they should be extended more widely in their use to commercial developments and how is that going to tie in with the proposals on tariffs?
  206. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, I do think they should be extended more widely and the method that we propose in the planning Green Paper documents is by tariffs. That would allow local authorities to specify what their menu of improvements was in a particular district and if that included green space then the tariff would contribute to that.

  207. Is there not a problem with many of these initiatives, whether it be looking at an additional levy through the Business Improvement District or purely a tariff? They tend to work best where there is added value around which can be tapped into and that does not help some of the poorest areas with some of these problems.
  208. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) That is why the tariff is so good because the tariff will permit the local authority to identify planning gain -- for example, right in the centre of a successful city -- which can then be used for deprived areas in a different part of the city, which cannot happen at the moment.

  209. You may have some local authorities which have generally fairly poor areas all round. It is difficult to see how they can cross-subsidise from sites with considerable gain to others.
  210. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I agree. If the position is that the land values in a particular area cannot sustain any tariff at all, our position is, in those circumstances, the tariff should be nil because you do not want the tariff to choke off development but ultimately there has to be a connection between the value of the land or the development and the tariff that is being charged.

  211. Getting back to enhancement for public space, given that some authorities will have far less ability to use these other mechanisms, is the government going to skew its assistance in terms of direct support to help those authorities that have less opportunity to get gain through other mechanisms?
  212. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The question of how one assists local authorities in relation to public space is something that has been looked at overall in relation to the comprehensive spending review, so I cannot answer the question directly.


  213. Let us just look at the tariff issue. The City of London probably has a pretty good street scene because it has a lot of money to spend on it and, on the whole, it does it very well. If it was getting tariff income from a development in the City of London, probably the logical place to spend it would be into Tower Hamlets. How is that going to work?
  214. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) By pooling arrangements between local authorities. A pan-London approach is possible; neighbouring authorities are possible or authorities in some sort of geographical relationship.

    Mr Betts

  215. Is this going to be voluntary?
  216. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. In relation to affordable housing in London, for example, one would envisage agreements being reached across London boroughs. It would not be restricted to housing; it would be restricted to ----

  217. So voluntary in the sense that boroughs are going to have to enter into agreements; or can they choose?
  218. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In the first instance, they would be voluntary, yes.

  219. Giving money away has not been one of your strongest points.
  220. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No, but sensible local authorities would realise that everybody benefits. It must benefit a neighbouring city to ensure that there is affordable housing in neighbouring authorities.

    Christine Russell

  221. The task force talks quite a lot about local leadership and community involvement. How do you see that working in practice and the relationship of the local authority and community groups working together? How are you going to avoid the local authority saying to the local green groups, "It is your responsibility to look after this public space"?
  222. (Ms Keeble) There was quite a lot of discussion on the task force about who had to take the lead in all of this. In the end, it was the local authority because they own most of the parkland anyway. They have a role to play to draw up their green strategies and to identify their public spaces and so on. We talked a lot and one of the working parties looked in a great deal of detail at partnership work in working with the community. In one part of the task force report you will see the rules of engagement, where we set out some good practice guides as to how you should involve the local community. It was seen to be a supportive role because obviously you cannot just transfer the responsibility, particularly if you are dealing with disadvantaged areas. The role of Friends Groups was particularly important in developing and promoting parks and green spaces. Equally, the role of the public and others in using the parks and spaces can really transform them. We thought it was absolutely crucial that the local authority still had a lead responsibility and that has clearly worked through.

  223. Do you think that the local authorities, if you expect them to take the lead, have the skills and the expertise in-house in order to take the lead?
  224. (Ms Keeble) That is one of the reasons why we set out some principles for how it should be done. That involves not just drawing up a plan and asking people what they think but getting them involved at a very early stage. For example, getting children involved in designing the kind of facilities that they want. One of the other things we are doing is we are providing this enabling fund, the pump priming one that was referred to, where we are going to help some local authorities to start putting this into practice. We are doing the work on developing that now.

    Mrs Ellman

  225. How do you answer charges that the call for greater community involvement in the maintenance of public spaces is trying to get the public to do what the local authority should do?
  226. (Ms Keeble) If you look at those parks where there is good community involvement, they are light years away from the parks that are designed by somebody else and maintained by somebody else and the public are allowed to use them. You can also see some very interesting work done in terms of engagement with particular sectors of the community. A park is not just something that looks nice and is a statement of civic pride; it is part of the regeneration of the community and the education strategies, the health strategies. Blackburn had a very good strategy for incorporating their parks into regeneration and there is a very active role there for the Friends Group. They also used it to deal with some youth crime problems because they had young offenders teams doing some of the work as part of getting them engaged in the community and into work. Southend, for example, had very good educational facilities in their parks. They also used this as a half-way house for people with mental health problems to do some work and then to go into open employment. People who say it is just a passing of the buck are not looking at the reality of the very good practice in parks where the community is engaged and where, in some instances, they might want more control rather than less over the park. The local authority provides the underpinning for that in terms of land ownership and having key responsibility so that it does not just become passing the buck.

  227. Should a local authority ever withdraw from ultimate responsibility for maintenance of public space?
  228. (Ms Keeble) I do not think they will. It is their property. There is a variety of different ways in which it has been out-sourced, I suppose, from what Lewisham is doing with their PFI to some areas where there is a community trust that might want to have ownership of the land and then do the development. There clearly has to be some underpinning of all of that and that is the role of the local authority. A good local authority could follow the guidelines set out in the task force report and make sure that it is a really good partnership working and it is well built into all their other strategies for the community.

    Ms King

  229. It is very frustrating that litter, vandalism and graffiti have all hugely increased. The government cannot do everything and I am very aware that some of the people who complain are often the parents of the kids who are doing it and they have no idea. Having said that the government cannot do everything, what is the government doing?
  230. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There are preventative measures like crime reduction partnerships, CCTV, better lighting in places, sanctions. Writing graffiti is a criminal damage offence. The maximum sentence for criminal damage is ten years. It is enforcing the criminal law where appropriate. It has ultimately to boil down to a coordinated approach in dealing with the preservation of the public space and that critically involves engagement with the police and the other partners involved in crime reduction.

  231. That is looking at the short and medium term. I think the list you gave was very good but what cross-department coordination is in place to promote the good citizenship that would help us see a reduction in these crimes in 5, 10 or 15 years' time?
  232. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Do you mean in terms of removing the cause of crime, of diverting these people who do it into other activity?

  233. Instilling in a new generation that the public realm is not a blank canvas for them to destroy as entertainment any day of the week.
  234. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Children and Young Persons Unit is trying to work right across government in seeking to instil diversionary activities. In the national curriculum, citizenship now plays a much stronger part than it did. Neighbourhood wardens in particular places are intimately engaged in providing activities for precisely the gangs of youths that you describe as being intimidating and turners off of people going into public parks. It is a whole range of things.


  235. The gangs are not responsible for the litter. What about plastic bags? Do you share your ministerial colleagues' concern that we should have a tax on plastic bags?
  236. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I did not know that any of my colleagues had taken that view.

  237. They have managed to make some progress in Ireland, I understand, with a tax on plastic bags. Are you sympathetic to that?
  238. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I will have to think about it. It is not something I have given much thought to.

  239. If we are interested in litter, the majority of litter is not dropped by the yobs, is it? It is by all sorts of individuals, sometimes supposedly responsible ones.
  240. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have a note that says, "Michael Meacher in yesterday's Guardian" so I assume that is a reference to litter and plastic bags.

  241. I was really after your interest in trying to get rid of some of this problem of litter, which is making all sorts of people care about it.
  242. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The Keep Britain Tidy campaign has had quite an important role to play ----

  243. It is useless. Convince me.
  244. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) ---- in helping us draw up the cross-cutting review. One of the things that is really important is to measure how successful you are being in relation to keeping streets tidy. It is implicit in the whole of the questioning. How do you get money to do the things that we want to be done like keeping parks and streets clean? You only get money for those things if you have a means of measuring how well it is going on. One of the things the cross-cutting review is focusing on is how do we measure who is doing well; how do we get money to those places that are not doing well but have a good way of making it better and how do we reward people who are doing well.

  245. On litter, your Department has some photographs which show whether you can expect your are to be looked at daily, weekly or monthly and what standards should be achieved.
  246. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Photographs that the Department have kept from me so far.

  247. It is in these manuals, guidance as to what local authorities should do and what expectations there should be.
  248. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I shall look at those photographs. In the regeneration field, in Barton Hill, which is a New Deal for Communities area, they have changed the arrangements for cleaning the neighbourhood. Instead of there being 88 separate employees of the out-sourced company that does maintenance and cleaning for Bristol, a team of seven or eight people are dedicated full time to Barton Hill. The consequence of that in terms of cleanliness, litter and rubbish collection has been to transform Barton Hill from the area which was the worst one in terms of complaints to the area which has the fewest complaints. The management of the issue, how it is addressed, identifying who has been successful and who has not, targeting money in the right place are the sorts of things that we need to do. Those are precisely the issues that the cross-cutting review is looking at.

    Mr Cummings

  249. The green spaces task force report highlights that responsibilities for green spaces are spread between several government departments but was scathing about the inadequate coordination that exists between those departments. The Committee are quite pleased that the spending review has, for the first time, been cross-departmental. How are you going to make sure that the impetus behind the urban green spaces task force report and cross-departmental working on public space which has been brought about by SR2002 will continue and perhaps not be kicked into the high grass?
  250. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The cross-cutting review exemplifies the fact that, as a matter of cross-government, we recognise that there needs to be an interdepartmental approach to this. The cross cutting arrangements which involved in effect setting up a group of ministers supported by interdepartmental officials have to continue beyond the process of the spending review itself. The interdepartmental grouping will continue. The group of ministers will continue. As I said in my opening remarks, we will publish an action plan in the autumn about what we are going to do because we accept the proposition that coordination needs to be greatly improved because it is a cross-government issue.

  251. You truly believe that this interdepartmental coordination will continue?
  252. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, I do.

  253. In the short and long term?
  254. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Yes, and I think it is vital that it does. You cannot address the issue of the public realm without including, for example, the DCMS's responsibilities, DTLR's responsibilities and DEFRA's as well.

  255. Who will monitor the progress?
  256. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a matter for decisions to be made about how it is done but ultimately there will need to be a group of ministers who bring it together.

    Christine Russell

  257. I have been searching for but failing to find any reference to the quality of the public ground, particularly in the historic environment. A problem exists with public utilities who dig up pavements where they have all had traditional surfaces relayed, put a strip of tarmac in and stick up their poles with very inappropriate signage on them. Is that an issue that you have looked at?
  258. (Ms Keeble) This report is just about green spaces so it would not deal with the street works issues. The overcharging policies and street works powers that are coming in in terms of lane rentals deal not just with the timetabling for the work being done but also with the quality of the restoration which is particularly important when you are looking at some of these very high quality, expensive paving schemes that some people are putting into their public spaces.

  259. A lot of local authorities would welcome greater powers to curb the excesses of some of the public utilities. Are you prepared to look at that?
  260. (Ms Keeble) There was quite a lot of that dealt with previously about the lane rentals and the fact that those were just starting and the need to look at those. We have not yet had the first report on the monitoring of the section 74 powers which are for overstaying but there is a real issue about the quality of the restoration and that is very specific in the lane rentals regulations that were debated last year, which say that the work is only finished not just once the hole is filled in but once the restitution is to standard and it is much more prescriptive about insisting on he quality, which is obviously very important.

    Ms King

  261. On the subject of coordinating public works and digging up public spaces by private utilities and local authorities, I thought the rules had been changed so that people did not try to push all this through towards the end of the financial year, to prevent it all taking place at the same time. Could you give me any indication if the government has taken any action to prevent so much work taking place at the same time, causing gridlock in London?
  262. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I have heard the same, but I cannot give the detail. Could I get back to you in relation to that?


  263. We have best value indicators as far as green space is concerned. Are we going to have best value indicators as far as the quality of public space is concerned?
  264. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We need to look at that. What is emerging is that you need a basket of indicators that produces one conclusion at the end of it, because there are so many aspects to it like pedestrian safety, cleanliness, litter, graffiti, safety on the streets etc; so a basket of indicators producing a score at the end of it is the sort of way the thinking is going at the moment.

  265. Knocking gently on the door of the Treasury to get a little bit of money, you have the data on how neglected our parks are. What about the evidence that everybody claims but does not seem to have concrete evidence of that good public spaces, parks and things like that are of a benefit to health? They reduce crime. They have educational benefits. Did you get round to getting the data that proves those points?
  266. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We have some data and that appeared in the first cross-cutting review report. To describe it as proof would be quite difficult because the causal connection between health and the existence of a park are quite difficult. We accept the basic proposition that good public realm encourages good health, increases economic activity and reduces crime.

  267. Can you tell us exactly where we are up to with the Green Spaces Agency?
  268. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A steering group has been set up with a view to considering what steps should be taken in relation to the creation of such an agency.

  269. When is this steering going to reach some point?
  270. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are going to respond to the green space task force in July and we will indicate in our response our view in relation to the agency.

  271. Does that mean that you might be suggesting that what you recommended in the task force does not go ahead?
  272. (Ms Keeble) There is going to be a meeting of the Committee before the end of June. That follows on exactly what the task force suggested. In terms of the government's response, we will have the benefit of that to look at but a decision on that has to wait for the government response in July.

  273. There is just a possibility that you could still say no to yourself?
  274. (Ms Keeble) Yes. It would leave me in a difficult position, I agree.

  275. You are ever hopeful?
  276. (Ms Keeble) The recommendation of setting up the Committee is being carried forward in record speed and there are very powerful arguments for the agency. However, the task force was not able in the time it had to draw up the exact specifications for an agency.

  277. Where is the public space strategy going from now on?
  278. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Do you mean the cross-cutting review?

  279. No. The cross-cutting review has talked about a public space strategy and I wanted to know where this strategy was going, whether it was going to find its way into a White Paper or into the dustbin.
  280. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We are going to publish it in the autumn.

  281. As a White Paper?
  282. (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think we will publish it as a strategy.

  283. Can you explain to me the difference between a strategy and a White Paper?

(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) We had this discussion before, did we not, on the planning? This will be the government's public realm strategy. It will set out the policies that the government intend to adopt in relation to promoting good public space. What is the difference between publishing your strategy in a White Paper and publishing your strategy as a strategy? I am unable to assist you in relation to the distinction but the critical thing is that we are going to produce a strategy.

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