The Petition of Mrs Jean Everett, the residents of Castle Point and others,
Declares that they suspect that there is a hidden agenda in respect of the public open space bounded by The Chase, Thundersley, on the north side, and by Runnymede Chase on the east side. Because a large area adjacent to the annex of the SEEVIC College has been fenced off and they challenge the legal right for this to have been done. Because Castle Point councillors have decided to no longer maintain this space. Because SEEVIC College has been allowed or encouraged to take over the area at certain times. They further believe that this land, like all public assets, belongs to the people, not to the councillors, and that councillors should respect that fact and keep the public fully informed of their and their officers’ discussions and intentions regarding the future of all our public assets. We ask councillors to return this land to full and proper public use and to protect it for the future.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to press all Castle Point councillors, since they have direct responsibility for this matter, to ensure this public open space is retained for its ancient and established use.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 6 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 104.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:
The Government acknowledge the resident’s concerns about the future of an area of public open space, but it is the Government’s general approach not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities unless it is necessary to do so. Parliament has entrusted planning authorities with responsibility for day-to-day planning control in their areas as they are normally best placed to make decisions relating to their areas and it is right that, in general, they should be free to carry out their duties responsibly, with the minimum of interference.
Government consider that, in general, locally elected councillors are best placed to take decisions on planning applications in their area. When determining a planning application, local authorities must take into account: the provisions of the development plan for the area; any relevant views expressed by neighbouring occupiers, local residents and other third parties; and any other relevant material considerations which fairly and reasonably relate to the application concerned. Local authorities should also be guided by the policies and advice set out in the Department’s Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs), Planning Policy Statement (PPSs) and planning circulars.
With regard to planning for sport, open space and recreation, as set out in PPG 17 Sport and Recreation, the Secretary of State seeks to ensure that the sport, open space and recreation requirements of the whole community are met by protecting existing facilities and securing appropriate new provision and to create more sustainable patterns of development by locating open space and recreational facilities where they are accessible by a choice of modes of transport and especially by foot, bicycle or public transport wherever possible. The Government recognise that recreational facilities can play a major part in improving people’s sense of well being in the place they live. As a focal point for community activities, they can bring together members of deprived communities and provide opportunities for people for social interaction.
An application for outline consent for the demolition of the existing SEEVIC college facilities excluding the west block and redevelopment to provide new college and associated buildings, parking, sports facilities and road junction improvements was referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 7 November 2008 as the proposals represented a departure from local plan policies. Careful consideration was given to all representations made; however, it was concluded that the Secretary of State would not be justified in taking the exceptional step of removing the decision from the local planning authority. Therefore the Secretary of State decided on 27 November 2008 not to intervene on this application, and return decision-making powers to the local authority.