Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire, Quality Place Delivery Panel


The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire PUSH , Quality Place Delivery Panel, is pleased to be given the opportunity to respond to the committee’s call for evidence

Our response focuses on question 2 the definition of sustainable development.

In our view the failure of the framework to explicitly include culture in its definition of sustainable development risks making the definition unbalanced and unworkable.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) is made up of 11 Local Authorities: Hampshire County Council, The Isle of Wight, and the Cities and districts of Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastleigh, East Hampshire, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Test Valley and Winchester.

1.2 Our Councils are working with the business community, through the Solent LEP, and a range of local and national organisations to secure sustainable economic development in our sub-region. From the start PUSH recognised the importance of character or quality of place as a vital component of securing future prosperity and enriching the quality of our communities – building places people wanted to live or work in, to invest in and to visit.. Central to that quality of place is culture, sport and recreation, design and the management of the historic and natural environment.

1.3 In 2008 the Quality Place Delivery Panel was established as a part of PUSH’s governance and delivery structure. The Panel is chaired by Councillor Gerald Vernon Jackson (Leader of Portsmouth City Council), and reports directly into the Joint Committee of Council Leaders which steers the work of the Partnership.

1.4 The priorities of the Quality Place Delivery Panel are identified in their business plan and include:

Promoting the identity of South Hampshire, and building the reputation of the area as an excellent place to live, work, and invest.

Promoting cultural and sporting engagement and participation.

Supporting the development of the cultural and creative economy.

Promoting tourism and the visitor economy.

Encouraging the highest standards of design in the built environment, and stewardship of the historic and natural environment.

2. Response to the Select Committee Call

The PUSH Quality Place Delivery Panel welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Select Committee’s Call for Evidence on the National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF.

Our response focuses on question 2 the definition of sustainable development.

In our view the failure of the framework to explicitly include culture in its definition of sustainable development risks making the definition unbalanced and unworkable.

The NPPF stresses the contribution planning can make to the economy, community wellbeing and the environment. We welcome the acknowledgement in the framework of the contribution that sport, leisure, recreation and open space can make building sustainable communities. Equally, recognition of the importance of the natural environment, the historic environment, and design in the built environment is welcomed.

However, it is disappointing that the NPPF however does not make any specific reference to the contribution culture - the arts, theatres, galleries, museums or libraries - make to ensuring that communities thrive. The failure to make explicit mention of culture means that the NPPF’s treatment of the types of provision which are championed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport DCMS is unbalanced. Without explicit mention of culture, there is a risk that, at the local level planners and developers overlook the contribution culture can make to the vibrancy of communities.

Why this matters

There is much evidence that cultural provision in its many forms is valued and contributes to vibrant and sustainable communities. The closure of a theatre, library or arts centre will always elicit a strong response from the public. Businesses choose to locate where there are real communities, not soulless estates. Cultural facilities self evidently contribute to the type of vibrant communities the NPPF wishes to encourage. Whilst the slimming down of planning policy is welcome, it is essential that the new Framework draws attention to all the key components which contribute to socially and economically successful places, and that includes cultural provision. Failure to identify the contribution of culture in the NPPF appears illogical given the prominence given to other aspects of community life cited in framework.

A community’s cultural facilities such as theatres, libraries and museums rarely generate a direct commercial return, although indirect economic or social returns are significant. However, they occupy valuable sites, and there is a risk that if planners and others are not encouraged to recognise their value, if their plans are “silent” on culture, facilities could succumb to development pressures and be demolished or converted into restaurants, shops, or housing.

Further, if the value of cultural facilities is not simply acknowledged in the NPPF, alongside sports and other comparable assets, it is likely that at least some councils will feel they are not in a position to press for new developments to include cultural provision. The lack of cultural provision within these developments may reduce opportunities for social activity, hinder social cohesion and inhibit the growth of a community.

Enhanced cultural provision is frequently identified by communities in neighbourhood plans as a reason for supporting development. The failure of the NPPF to identify the ways development can enrich the cultural life of a community may therefore make it harder to sell the benefits of development to existing residents.

3. The Planning Context

Planning for culture is, by implication, clearly within the remit of planning as defined in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

For example, the definition of sustainable development in the draft NPPF includes “…the need to create a good quality built environment with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and supports its health and wellbeing” [para 10, bullet 3].

Also, the NPPF states the need to “…plan positively for the provision and integration of community facilities”, referring to local meeting places and public houses [but not cultural facilities such as theatres; para 126, bullet 1].

We believe there is a need to strengthen the guidance by making explicit reference to culture at appropriate points in the text. At present leisure, sport and heritage are explicitly recognised in the draft NPPF. Culture, the arts and theatres are not. The reduction of policy guidance, particularly in relation to PPS4 in the new NPPF is in principle welcomed, but has meant that there is a lack of clarity surrounding culture and the role it has to play in achieving sustainable development. If culture is not recognised local plans we may find ourselves unable to meet communities cultural needs.

4. Surgested Textual Changes in the NPPF

4.1 Key changes

We would like to see the framework include a definition of cultural infrastructure which was inclusive of Theatres, Arts Facilities, Community Cinemas, Galleries, Museums, Archives, and Libraries

We believe that reference should be also be made to culture where community facilities or infrastructure are referred to in the NPPF. We would like to see the following list of textual changes incorporated into the NPPF:

In particular we propose that Para 23, bullet 4 should be amended to read “Local Plans should….. include strategic policies to deliver cultural and community infrastructure”; and

Also para 31; bullet 1 should be amended to refer to working with other authorities to “…assess the quality and capacity of cultural and community infrastructure”.

4.2 Other Proposed Textual Changes in the NPPF

Para 19, bullet 9; should include reference to “…taking account of and supporting local strategies for cultural provision”, as part of attempts to improve health and well being.

Para 23, bullet 2; should read “...retail, leisure, cultural and other commercial development”.

Para 30, bullet 1; should read “...retail, leisure and cultural development”.

Para 38; cultural provision is an important part of provision for wellbeing, and this could be referred to here.

Para 73, bullet 4; reference should be made to clusters of cultural as well as creative industries in this section.

Para 73, bullet 6; affordable artists workspace/studios are an example of live/work provision that could be given here.

Para 76, bullet 1; this should refer to policies to support the viability, vitality and cultural vigour of town centres.

Para 76, bullet 5; this should refer to “...retail, leisure, cultural, commercial and community services …. thereby allocating suitable numbers of sites for cultural uses, including theatres.

Para 76, bullet 7; this section should refer “...retail, leisure and cultural proposals” thereby ensuring there is provision for cultural uses.

Para 77; this section should refer to “…retail, leisure and cultural uses”.

Para78; this section should refer to “…retail, leisure and cultural uses”.

Para 79; this section should refer to “…retail, leisure and cultural development”.

Para 80; this section should refer to “…the impact of retail, leisure and cultural proposals”.

Para 91; this section should refer to “…employment, shopping, leisure, cultural, educational and other activities”.

Para 124, bullet 2; this section should refer to delivering “…the right cultural and community facilities…” etc.

Para 126; bullet 1; this section could refer to “cultural facilities” as one of the examples within the brackets.

Para 126, bullet 2; this section could include reference to theatres as an example of a facility which should not be lost.

Para 126; bullet 4; this section should refer to “…suitable locations which offer a range of cultural and community facilities”.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011