HL Deb 09 May 2002 vol 634 cc1262-4

3.22 p.m.

Baroness Greengross

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to implement the conclusions of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force report.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

My Lords, the Urban Green Spaces Task Force published its final report on 7th May, Green Spaces, Better Places. We plan to announce our response to the conclusions and recommendations of the report in July.

Baroness Greengross

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Minister for that reply. I was particularly heartened that greater efforts are to be made to engage with young people to use urban green spaces better. I also welcome the efforts of the Children's Play Council in this regard and the report that it published on 7th May entitled More than Swings and Roundabouts.

What further support do the Government intend to give to involve young people in regenerating their parks and play areas and, particularly important to me, what are the ways in which we might promote inter-generational partnership? I should declare an interest as chair of the Experience Corps, which is a government-supported initiative to involve many more people of 50 and over in volunteering.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for mentioning the Experience Corps, of which she is the chair, and which will make a major contribution to engaging older people in volunteering. As regards engaging younger people in the use of green spaces, what is at the heart of both Green Spaces, Better Places and the current cross-cutting review into public space in the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review is that, if the quality of existing green spaces and parks is improved, more people will use them. That is achieved by focusing on who is responsible for keeping them in proper condition and making them much more accessible to young and old alike. That is the process in which we are engaged; we are looking at the recommendations in this report and at those in the cross-cutting review.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, Green Spaces, Better Places is the normal sort of tongue-twister with which we have to deal in titles of reports nowadays. However, on first looking through the report, I congratulate its authors on what appears to be an extremely valuable and useful contribution to the vital green spaces in our towns and cities. Would the Minister agree with what appears to be a vital part of the report, that during the next five years a capital contribution of £0.5 billion will be required, to begin reversing the decline of urban parks and green spaces and to create new good-quality ones". I repeat, £0.5 billion pounds over five years. In the Government's response to the report, will they not only agree to find ways of contributing that money, but also find ways to reverse the catastrophic decline in revenue spending on parks which has taken place over most of the past 50 years in the face of dramatic cuts in, and pressure on, local government spending.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his welcome for the report, which makes a number of very important suggestions. He is absolutely right that it calls for £500 million more to be spent over the next five years, and it also calls for partnership arrangements in relation to parks which will improve delivery arrangements and park maintenance. As the noble Lord will understand, I am not in a position to give any indication about what the response to that report may be, but I can tell him that the response will come in July.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, the Minister appears to have acknowledged that maintaining open spaces costs money. Would he take back the need for clear advice on the use of planning gain to fund the maintenance of open spaces.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, planning gain is a useful way of ensuring that funds are available for the maintenance of parks in certain cases. Just as important is the design of public buildings and public parks because that contributes hugely to the quality of the parks and the ability to maintain them. The planning system has a very important role to play in the matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and in relation to the design of parks.

Forward to