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Proposal on Play Space - speech by Rod Jones

September 29, 2017 10:28 AM
By Rod Jones

Proposal and Speech on Play Space by Liberal Democrat Councillor Rod Jones
at Rushcliffe Council meeting on 21 st September 2017

"This Council resolves that in future large residential developments,
it is an absolute condition that an adequate area of play space is
provided within the site including for ball games."

The Borough prides itself as a pleasant place to live with good facilities. Earlier builders and earlier
Councils provided spaces and parks amongst the houses - we should not rest on their laurels. We
must provide good quality environments and we must ensure that any new significant housing
development provides appropriate outdoor play space.

Play is an essential part of every child's life - vital for enjoyment, health as well as social, emotional,
intellectual and physical development. The creation of suitable spaces for play falls primarily to us
because we are responsible for spatial planning. Planning policy and decisions shape the
environments where children and young people spend much of their childhoods. Local plan policies
and practice can ensure that accessible spaces are provided where children and young people can
play in safety in their neighbourhoods - or we can fail to provide them.

Most of us have memories of our childhood free play spaces - mine were bomb sites and streams -
mostly no longer available. In years gone by, most children would play outside most days but
surveys show that most no longer do. Busy roads, parents' fears for their children's safety,
children's own perceptions of what local means, and in some cases the poor location of play spaces
all combine to reduce the amount of time children and young people walk, cycle and play freely.
Mr Mayor we have an interest in reducing the rise of childhood obesity; we have an interest in
designing out crime and trouble around our shopping centres and local wildlife reserves; we have an
interest in providing positive spaces for children and young people to play.

One document describing playable spaces says they should pass the 'three frees' test: be free of
charge, be where children and young people are free to come and go and free to choose what they
do whilst there. They should be welcoming and engaging for all, including those who have a
disability and provide for the differing needs of children and young people from the very young up
to 18 years.

Mr Mayor, it is not surprising that the focus of the Core Strategy and Local Plans have been
dominated by where the required massive number of dwellings will be built and greenbelt lost and
by providing frameworks to encourage developers. If you read the recent consultation comments
on Local Plans - it is striking that it is adults who were consulted and solely adults whose views were
overwhelmingly about where dwellings should go and greenbelt lost.

In the Local Plan Part 2 Summary of Consultation this September hardly any comments were
recorded about open spaces for play and parks. Surprise, surprise, developers said they wanted
plans on play to be flexible; not based solely the size.

The voices and interests of children and young people were not apparent.

So I hope that Members agree:

- that the needs of children and young people in public open spaces must be better addressed
in the planning process and decisions;
- that the Local Development Framework should receive soon a proposed Supplementary
Planning Document covering open spaces and play spaces and relative to the size of the
development require standards and levels of provision of a variety of outdoor playable
spaces within easy walking and cycling distance of where they live.
- that play spaces, and safe routes to them, should be explicitly planned into residential
developments and the authority's expectations of good practice made clear.

You might well ask why is it important to raise this now?

The Council has an old Planning Document on play areas produced in 2003. It is not an impressive
read, requires nothing much and predates the Government's Planning Framework Guidance. It is in
effect irrelevant.

Under the Planning Framework we have Supplementary Planning Documents on Residential Design;
on Wind Energy and on the Melton Road Edwalton Development Framework.

The website says "it is anticipated that several further SPDs will be necessary to amplify existing
planning policy and a project plan for these will be maintained on the Borough Council website." If
it's there, it is well hidden.

Page 183 of our Core Strategy refers to improving the quality and quantity of sports facilities and
says the delivery will be an SPD on Open Space, sports and recreation. So the aspiration is there
albeit - but it is focussed on sports and less on play areas.

If we and the public look at outcomes on play space, sadly these are grim.

In the last 2 Planning Committees there has been the Wilford Lane approval for 171 dwellings with
no integral play space and the recent Outline approval for 600 at Melton Rd Edwalton providing a
very small play area for teenagers - approximately 9 by 10 metres - the only such space for the
entire 1,600 dwellings.

Worse, the considerable Section 106 money from developers is destined to be spent on all weather
pitches at a school and at Gresham - both inaccessible to young people unless they book, pay and
travel a distance. I hope that the Cabinet members will act to change what happens for the future of
the many residents and young people on Sharphill.

My Mayor, the National Planning Framework is clear that there are three dimensions to sustainable
development: economic, social and environmental.

a social role - supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of
housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high
quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community's needs and
support its health, social and cultural well-being

The Planners bible, Paragraph 70 of the NPPF says: "To deliver the social, recreational and cultural
facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should amongst other

- "plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local
shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of
worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and
residential environments."

Many other Local Authorities have Supplementary Planning Documents on play space for example:
East Riding, Leicester, South Cambridgeshire, East Staffordshire, West Suffolk, Richmond, Rochdale,

BARNSLEY's for example describes the 3 types of play space which will normally be required as a
result of new housing developments whilst stressing that nothing will be rigidly applied in every
case. In some circumstances a financial contribution to enhance informal space off site may be
acceptable if any is located nearby.

(A) Equipped children's play areas. Over 100 houses: Provision generally required on site

(B) Informal play space and informal landscaped areas. Over 40 houses: Provision should be made
on site

(C) Formal recreation (sports pitches, courts, greens etc.). More than 200 houses: Provision may be
required on site.

Mr Mayor, we should aim for decent quality levels of provision for all ages of residents in our
Planning. So I move the motion.

The Outcome: Conservative Councillors said they agreed with the spirit of what I said , voted this
down but proposed and voted in another motion which included the words "where practical".