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Open Spaces

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 17th May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 2:30 pm, 17th May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to ensure the provision of more open spaces in built-up areas; and if he will make a statement. [23207]

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

We fully recognise the importance of open space for amenity and recreation, and our planning policy guidance encourages its provision.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

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?

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

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.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

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.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A question has been put to me by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). May I answer it?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been long enough in this House to know that the answer is no.

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

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.