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We fully recognise the importance of open space for amenity and recreation, and our planning policy guidance encourages its provision.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he be strong with Labour councils such as Ealing, particularly as an open space and sporting facility which has existed for nearly 100 years is under threat? Does he agree that such a facility should continue to exist and not be built on in any way?
As my hon. Friend is aware, we are "strong" on exactly that issue. Playing fields should normally be protected, except where additional sports facilities are provided for the area, where there is alternative provision of equivalent benefit elsewhere, or where there is an excess of sports provision—which would be rare or non-existent in my hon. Friend's area.
As one who has always strongly supported the provision of more open spaces in urban areas, may I tell the Minister that all decisions by the Labour council about the disposal of sites in Ealing simply reflect previous decisions by the former Tory council, which disposed of many more sites? Does the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) accept that we welcome his raising that matter as councils throughout the country are strapped for cash and find themselves having to sell off sites? Even more important, the remaining open spaces are becoming increasingly run down, shabby, ill kept and—because they are no longer staffed—insecure. More resources are needed to stop the sell-offs and improve the condition of open spaces.
I am continually amazed at Labour Members' lack of knowledge and understanding of inner cities and local councils. One need only go to some Labour authorities to see land requiring regeneration which is wasted because the local authorities do not have the money, gumption, ability, information or imagination to get any regeneration moving.