Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Francis: Protecting playing fields in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"For every acre of play space in Wales, there are 80 acres of golf club space. Across the UK, playing fields have been lost at a rate of one a day over the past eight years. Those are alarming facts.

The Sports Council for Wales uses the definition of 'playing field' provided in the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 as amended by the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Amendment) Order 1996. It is that definition that I am seeking to change with my proposal under Standing Order No. 31.

This morning, I was asked on radio what my intentions were and what I hoped to achieve through this Standing Order No. 31 procedure. I simply want to bring about legislation that will enable open and green spaces, used for recreation and physical education, to be officially documented as such.

Without that documentation, it is impossible to collate the statistical impact of playing field losses in Wales. My concern has always been that we would lose numerous children's pitches in every town and village in our country, and that, as things currently stand, their loss would be brushed easily under the carpet.

In the second part of the motion that I put before Plenary on 4 October, I asked that the definition of 'playing pitch' be revised to remove the minimum size requirement in relation to a delineated area.

Before Members' eyes begin to glaze over, I shall endeavour to explain further. Local authorities must currently consult with the Sports Council for Wales on planning applications that affect a playing field, which is defined as being the size of an adult football pitch in scale.

I have asked for children's pitches—approximately 0.2 ha—to be classed as playing pitches and therefore playing fields. That is because, as things stand, land containing unclassified children's pitches is more vulnerable to building development or sale at the hands of local authorities.

This called-for change to the minimum size requirement that is included in the definition of a playing pitch would also protect local children's playgrounds, because they cannot currently be defined as designated recreation areas.

The National Playing Fields Association—the representatives of which are once again present in the Chamber—has fully endorsed what I am asking for today and is anxious to see the outcome of phase 2 of this debate.

I am grateful for the immense support that its representatives have given to me and my staff in researching this debate. In preparation for phase 2 and my meeting with the Minister to forge a way ahead, I provided him with an amended definition of 'playing field'. I accepted that there needed to be a tighter and more prescriptive definition of that term. My amendment included the following:

'Any recreational space that is primarily designated for the practising and competing in sports and games, which can also provide play facilities and opportunities for children and young people'.

That is a little verbose, but nevertheless, absolutely clear. The Minister commented in his feasibility study of 4 January that the definition is still problematic and that work is still ongoing with the Legal Services Department to develop a satisfactory definition.

I have an e-mail from the Minister dated 12 December, responding to an e-mail of mine a week earlier, in which he informs me that he is still seeking legal advice, and I understand that that is ongoing.

The process of obtaining explanations and answers as to the efficacy of my revised proposal has been fraught with time delays, late responses and, in short, something of a communication deficit.

In the first instance, it took the Minister and me nearly eight weeks to arrange a meeting, following the last debate, to propose a way forward.

Then, as already outlined in the Minister's e-mail to me, the Legal Services Department is still discussing the matter. The Minister has stuck to his side of the bargain and, under the terms of Standing Order No. 31, has written to the committee Chairs for their input.

To my knowledge, thusfar, the Chair of the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee is the only one to have responded. I know that the Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills Committee discussed the issue last Thursday, but the Record of what was discussed will not be available until tomorrow which, of course, is no good for today.

The Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee has not had an opportunity to discuss it at all. We cannot blame everything on a four-week recess. Some Members may think it highly pedantic of me to dig all this up—and that may be true—but I believe that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, and the parameters of Standing Order No. 31 are set out to protect us.

The communication deficit and time delays that I experienced make me fear for the future of the next Assembly, when there will be more work to do.

The Government is fond of advocating smarter working, but it is always a good idea to start at home. Minister, we are where we are: nearly at the end of the second Assembly and running out of time. I hope that I am not running out of time, Dirprwy Lywydd.

I understand that, as with any proposed policy change, there will be a 12-week consultation period from mid February, involving around 350 organisations, including 25 local planning authorities, the National Playing Fields Association and the Sports Council for Wales. That is fair enough, and I will not argue against it.

Some 80 per cent of children in the UK prefer playing outside to playing indoors, and 86 per cent prefer outdoor activities to playing computer games, yet research shows that over the last 20 years or so, the area in which a typical eight-year-old can travel around on their own has shrunk by nearly 90 per cent.

Children are telling us that they want to play outside, so why is it that they cannot? Apart from the golf course statistic given earlier, the Children's Play Council estimates an average of 2.3 sq m of public play space for each child aged 12 and under.

That equates to the size of a kitchen table. We all know of the diabetes explosion brought on by childhood obesity, but the extent of play deprivation experienced by many children is at least as damaging as junk food.

Sport is attractive to sporty kids; that was certainly my experience. However, all children like to play outside, and opportunities for spontaneous play may be the only requirement for young children to increase their physical activity, increase their environmental awareness and, importantly, enjoy the most fundamental part of childhood. I am pleased that the Minister has found a positive way forward in this debate. I urge all Members to support the motion today."

"Am bob erw o le chwarae yng Nghymru, mae 80 erw o le gan glybiau golff. Ar draws y DU, mae meysydd chwarae wedi cael eu colli ar gyfradd o un y dydd dros yr wyth mlynedd diwethaf. Mae'r rhain yn ffeithiau brawychus.

Mae Cyngor Chwaraeon Cymru'n defnyddio'r diffiniad o 'faes chwarae' a roddir yng Ngorchymyn Cynllunio Gwlad a Thref (Gweithdrefn Datblygu Cyffredinol) 1995 fel y'i diwygiwyd gan Orchymyn Cynllunio Gwlad a Thref (Gweithdrefn Datblygu Cyffredinol) (Diwygio) 1996. Y diffiniad hwnnw yr wyf yn ceisio ei newid drwy fy nghynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog Rhif 31.

Y bore yma, gofynnwyd imi ar y radio beth oedd fy mwriadau a beth yr oeddwn yn gobeithio ei gyflawni drwy'r weithdrefn hon o dan Reol Sefydlog Rhif 31.

Y cyfan yr wyf am ei wneud yw sefydlu deddfwriaeth a fydd yn galluogi mannau agored a mannau gwyrdd, sy'n cael eu defnyddio ar gyfer adloniant ac addysg gorfforol, i gael eu cofnodi felly'n swyddogol. Heb y cofnodi hwnnw, mae'n amhosibl coladu effaith ystadegol colli meysydd chwarae yng Nghymru.

Fy mhryder i erioed yw y byddem yn colli llawer o leiniau plant ym mhob tref a phentref yn ein gwlad, ac, fel y mae pethau ar hyn o bryd, y câi'r golled honno ei hysgubo'n rhwydd o dan y carped.

Yn ail ran y cynnig a gyflwynais i'r Cyfarfod Llawn ar 4 Hydref, gofynnais am i'r diffiniad o 'lain chwarae' gael ei adolygu i ddileu'r gofyniad maint gofynnol mewn perthynas ag ardal ddynodedig. Cyn i'r Aelodau golli diddordeb, ceisiaf egluro ymhellach.

Ar hyn o bryd rhaid i awdurdodau lleol ymgynghori â Chyngor Chwaraeon Cymru ynglyn â cheisiadau cynllunio sy'n effeithio ar faes chwarae, sy'n cael ei ddiffinio fel maes yr un maint â chae pêl-droed i oedolion.

Yr wyf wedi gofyn am i leiniau plant—0.2 ha yn fras—gael eu dosbarthu fel lleiniau chwarae ac felly fel meysydd chwarae. Mae hynny oherwydd, fel y mae hi, mae tir sy'n cynnwys lleiniau plant nad ydynt wedi cael eu dosbarthu yn fwy tebygol o gael eu datblygu drwy adeiladu neu gael eu gwerthu gan yr awdurdodau lleol.

Byddai'r newid angenrheidiol hwn i'r gofyniad maint gofynnol sydd wedi cael ei gynnwys yn y diffiniad o lain chwarae hefyd yn amddiffyn lleoedd chwarae lleol i blant, oherwydd ar hyn o bryd nid oes modd eu diffinio fel ardaloedd adloniant dynodedig.

Mae Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Meysydd Chwarae—y mae ei chynrychiolwyr yn bresennol unwaith eto yn y Siambr hon—wedi llwyr gymeradwyo'r hyn yr wyf yn gofyn amdano heddiw ac yn awyddus i weld canlyniad cam 2 y ddadl hon.

Yr wyf yn ddiolchgar am y gefnogaeth aruthrol a roddwyd i mi a'm staff wrth ymchwilio ar gyfer y ddadl hon. Wrth baratoi ar gyfer cam 2 a'm cyfarfod gyda'r Gweinidog i lunio ffordd ymlaen, rhoddais ddiffiniad diwygiedig iddo o 'faes chwarae'. Derbyniais y byddai angen diffiniad tynnach a mwy rhagnodol o'r term hwnnw. Yr oedd fy ngwelliant yn cynnwys y canlynol:

'Unrhyw fan adloniadol sy'n cael ei ddynodi'n bennaf ar gyfer ymarfer chwaraeon a gemau a chystadlu ynddynt, sydd hefyd yn gallu darparu cyfleusterau a chyfleoedd chwarae i blant a phobl ifanc'.

Mae hynny braidd yn amleiriog, ond serch hynny, yn gwbl glir. Dywedodd y Gweinidog yn ei astudiaeth dichonoldeb ar 4 Ionawr bod y diffiniad yn dal i beri problemau a bod gwaith yn dal i fynd rhagddo gyda'r Adran Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol i ddatblygu diffiniad boddhaol.

Mae gennyf e-bost oddi wrth y Gweinidog dyddiedig 12 Rhagfyr, yn ymateb i e-bost gennyf fi wythnos yn gynharach, lle mae'n fy hysbysu ei fod yn dal i geisio cyngor cyfreithiol, a deallaf fod hynny'n parhau. Mae'r broses o gael esboniadau ac atebion ynglyn ag effeithiolrwydd fy nghynnig diwygiedig wedi wynebu llawer o oedi, ymatebion hwyr ac, yn fyr, bu rhyw ddiffyg cyfathrebu.

Yn y lle cyntaf, cymerodd bron i wyth wythnos i'r Gweinidog a minnau drefnu cyfarfod, ar ôl y ddadl ddiwethaf, i gynnig ffordd ymlaen. Yna, fel yr amlinellwyd eisoes yn e-bost y Gweinidog ataf, mae'r Adran Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol yn dal i drafod y mater.

Mae'r Gweinidog wedi cadw at ei ochr ef o'r fargen ac, o dan delerau Rheol Sefydlog Rhif 31, mae wedi ysgrifennu at Gadeiryddion y pwyllgorau i gael eu mewnbwn hwy. Hyd y gwn i, hyd yma, Cadeirydd Pwyllgor yr Amgylchedd, Cynllunio a Chefn Gwlad yw'r unig un sydd wedi ymateb.

Gwn i'r Pwyllgor Addysg, Dysgu Gydol Oes a Sgiliau drafod y mater ddydd Iau diwethaf, ond ni fydd y Cofnod o'r hyn a drafodwyd ar gael tan yfory ac nid yw hynny, wrth gwrs, o unrhyw werth heddiw. Nid yw'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chwaraeon wedi cael cyfle i'w drafod o gwbl. Ni allwn feio popeth ar y toriad pedair wythnos. Efallai fod rhai Aelodau yn credu fy mod yn hynod o bedantig yn crafu drwy hyn i gyd—ac efallai fod hynny'n wir—ond yr wyf yn credu, os yw rhywbeth yn werth ei wneud, mae'n werth ei wneud yn dda, ac mae paramedrau Rheol Sefydlog Rhif 31 wedi eu bwriadu i'n hamddiffyn.

Mae'r diffyg cyfathrebu a'r oedi yr wyf wedi ei brofi yn gwneud imi ofni ynglyn â dyfodol y Cynulliad nesaf, pan fydd rhagor o waith i'w wneud. Mae'r Llywodraeth yn hoff o gymell gweithio callach, ond mae bob amser yn syniad da dechrau gartref.

Weinidog, yr ydym lle'r ydym: bron ar ddiwedd yr ail Gynulliad ac yn rhedeg allan o amser. Gobeithiaf nad wyf fi'n rhedeg allan o amser, Ddirprwy Lywydd.

Megis gydag unrhyw newid polisi arfaethedig, deallaf y bydd cyfnod ymgynghori o 12 wythnos o ganol mis Chwefror, yn cynnwys tua 350 o sefydliadau, yn eu mysg 25 o awdurdodau cynllunio lleol, Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Meysydd Chwarae a Chyngor Chwaraeon Cymru. Mae hynny'n ddigon teg, ac ni fyddaf yn dadlau yn ei erbyn.

Mae'n well gan ryw 80 y cant o blant yn y DU chwarae tu allan na chwarae tu mewn, ac mae'n well gan 86 y cant weithgareddau awyr agored na chwarae gemau cyfrifiadur, ond mae ymchwil yn dangos, dros yr 20 mlynedd diwethaf yn fras, fod yr ardal y gall plentyn wyth oed nodweddiadol ei theithio ar ei ben ei hun wedi crebachu o bron i 90 y cant.

Mae plant yn dweud wrthym eu bod am chwarae tu allan, felly pam na allant wneud hynny? Ar wahân i'r ystadegyn am gyrsiau golff a roddwyd yn gynharach, mae'r Cyngor Chwarae Plant yn amcangyfrif 2.3 m sg o le chwarae cyhoeddus i bob plentyn 12 oed ac iau.

Mae hynny'n cyfateb i faint bwrdd cegin. Gwyddom i gyd am y cynnydd enfawr mewn diabetes sy'n cael ei achosi gan ordewdra mewn plentyndod, ond mae graddfa'r amddifadu ar blant rhag cael chwarae—sef profiad llawer o blant—yr un mor niweidiol o leiaf â bwyd sothach.

Mae chwaraeon yn ddeniadol i blant sy'n hoffi chwaraeon; yn sicr, dyna oedd fy mhrofiad i. Fodd bynnag, mae pob plentyn yn hoffi chwarae tu allan, ac efallai mai cyfleoedd i chwarae'n ddigymell yw'r unig ofyniad er mwyn i blant ifanc gynyddu eu gweithgarwch corfforol, cynyddu eu hymwybyddiaeth amgylcheddol ac, yn fwy pwysig, mwynhau'r rhan fwyaf sylfaenol o blentyndod.

Yr wyf yn falch bod y Gweinidog wedi canfod ffordd bositif ymlaen yn y ddadl hon. Anogaf yr Aelodau i gyd i gefnogi'r cynnig heddiw."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech