Brent and Harrow
5 May 2016 Vote for
Sadiq Khan Mayor of London
Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
Labour Party Londonwide

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Asian Voice Column: Providing Better Access to London's Public Spaces

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An area where I’ve come across constant passion, concerns and demand to improve legislation, in the last 18 years in public service, is the protection, enhancement of our open spaces (both in public and private ownership) and how we can improve access to open spaces for the enjoyment of local community and visitors.  This was the case when I served on Harrow Council’s planning committee for nearly 8 years as well as in my ongoing role in addressing planning policies in Harrow.  As the pressure to develop homes and other infrastructure has grown so has the pressure and absolute need to preserve and enhance our open/green spaces whether they are ‘private’ or ‘public’ has grown.

 

In my role of Assembly Member I’ve served on GLA’s Planning and Housing Committee since 2008 whose remit is to address / scrutinise strategic issues affecting Londoners including people living in the suburban areas like leafy Harrow and Brent that I represent. In late May the committee published its report “Public life in private hand”. The report especially focuses on the different ways the public realm (town/city squares, parks and thoroughfares) - is managed and it identifies a number of consequences relating to the shift in the ownership and management of public spaces from local authorities to developers.

 

The report in the nutshell urges the Mayor to preserve open access to London’s public spaces and asks the Mayor to use his planning powers to keep London’s public realm as open and accessible as possible and better manage the creeping trend towards private control of public space.

 

Three key areas emphasised in the recommendations made in the report:  

 

  1. The Mayor should consider developing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on the public realm once the Mayor’s Draft London Plan is adopted.  The aim of this approach is to set out what is expected from public space in principle; clear guidance on how London’s boroughs could approach the provision and design of public realm, what desirable minimum standards are in terms of access and use, and how subsequent management responsibilities can be negotiated between boroughs and developers etc.

 

 

 

  1. As to the public spaces (in public / private ownership) in new developments the report recommends he Mayor to encourage London’s Councils to draw up meaningful written agreements with developers to enable it to secure the highest possible level of public access to properly managed public spaces  to achieve full and best public access and use of these space.  

 

  1. At the stage of preparing / amending local planning policies when preparing their ‘Local Development Framework’ the report recommends that the Councils should be mindful of how public space is to be managed in any significant schemes and how they will engage the community in both the design and the ongoing management process. This will go some way towards providing and protecting access to public spaces.

      
I agree with Nicky Gavron Assembly Member, Deputy Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee that high quality, safe and well-maintained public spaces play a major part in the London’s economy, environment and quality of life for both Londoners and visitors.  They are areas where people should feel welcome to meet, sit, eat their lunch or simply wander through. To access the full report or for more details visit the GLA website or contact me  at Navin.shah@london.gov.uk