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Petitions

Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 23 March 2010

Petitions

Tuesday 23 March 2010

OBSERVATIONS

Children, Schools and Families

Badman Report (Gosport)

The Petition of persons resident in the Gosport parliamentary constituency,

Declares that they are concerned about the recommendations of the Badman Report, which suggests closer monitoring of home educators, including a compulsory annual registration scheme and right of access to people’s homes for local authority officials; further declares that the Petitioners believe the recommendations are based on a review that was extremely rushed, failed to give due consideration to the evidence, failed to ensure that the data it collected were sufficiently robust, and failed to take proper account of the existing legislative framework.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families either not to bring forward, or to withdraw, proposed legislative measures providing for tighter registration and monitoring of children educated at home in the absence of a thorough independent inquiry into the condition and future of elective home education in England; but instead to take the steps necessary to ensure that the existing Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities are properly implemented, learning from current best practice, in all local authorities in England.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir Peter Viggers, Official Report, 16 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 846/7.]

[P000650]

Badman Report (North Devon)

The Petition of Persons resident in the North Devon Parliamentary Constituency,

Declares that they are concerned about the recommendations of the Badman Report, which suggests closer monitoring of home educators, including a compulsory annual registration scheme and right of access to people’s homes for local authority officials; further declares that the Petitioners believe the recommendations are based on a review that was extremely rushed, failed to give due consideration to the evidence, failed to ensure that the data it collected were sufficiently robust, and failed to take proper account of the existing legislative framework.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families either not to bring forward, or to withdraw, proposed legislative measures providing for tighter registration and monitoring of children educated at home in the absence of a thorough independent inquiry into the condition and future of elective home education in England; but instead to take the steps necessary to ensure that the existing Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities are properly implemented, learning from current best practice, in all local authorities in England.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented on 4 March 2010, Official Report, Vol. 506, c. 20P .]

[P000748]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families:

DCSF commissioned the Badman review of home education in January 2009 and the report was published on 11 June 2009. As part of the review, Graham Badman took written and oral evidence from a range of individuals and organisations who responded to his public call for evidence, including home educators and local authorities. Alongside this he also considered published literature, the current legal position and guidance and the approaches taken in other countries. He was assisted by an expert reference group. I am confident that his report draws from a wide and heterogeneous evidence base.

The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee also considered the Badman report and was supportive of most of the recommendations. It agreed that a short statement of educational approach would be helpful in establishing dialogue between home educating families and local authorities; that an annual meeting between local authorities and home educators was needed; and that better support for home educators and better training for local authorities would together lead to an improvement on the current arrangements.

Home Education registration and monitoring proposals are included in the Children, Schools and Families Bill which passed Second Reading in the House of Lords on 8 March 2010. The proposals will put in place light touch regulation and monitoring arrangements and our guidance will make it clear that this will be proportionate and focused on support and encouragement for home educating families. We have also committed around £21 million in the first year to additional support for home educating families, which has a focus on children with SEN and home educated children who would like to attend FE College courses.

Home education is an established part of the British education system and the vast majority of home educators who do a good job will find monitoring supportive and—for the first time—backed by real resources. Our reforms will not require home educators to adopt a particular approach, to teach a specific curriculum, or for their children to take SATs tests or specific public examinations. After these reforms are implemented, England will remain one of the most liberal countries in the developed world for home educators to live in.

Communities and Local Government

Regional Spatial Strategies (Irchester)

The Humble Petition of residents of Irchester, Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas,

Sheweth

that the Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy requiring 52,000 new homes to be built in North Northamptonshire is having an adverse and detrimental effect on the village of Irchester; that the proposed extension of the village policy line allowing the possibility of large scale housing as part of this spatial strategy is unacceptable; and that the Petitioners are opposed to any development outside of the existing Irchester village boundaries which would have an adverse effect on the village.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and return planning decisions to local councils; and further urges him to request that the Borough Council of Wellingborough listens to the view of local people and does not extend the village policy line.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr. Peter Bone, Official Report, 15 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 697 .]

[P000751]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware that various options for development across the Borough, which includes some sites in Irchester, are currently being considered by the Borough Council of Wellingborough as part of the preparation of a draft Site Allocations Development Plan Document. He is advised that this work is at an early stage of development and that there will be a formal public consultation before any decisions are taken.

The overall numbers of houses planned for North Northamptonshire were set in the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub Regional Strategy in March 2005 following two periods of public consultation and an examination in public before an independent panel. Details on this can be seen at http://www.gos.gov.uk/gose/ourRegion/growthAreas/mksmGrowth/srs/

This was incorporated into statutory policy through the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East Midlands, issued in March 2005 and revised in March 2009. This document was also subject to formal stages of public consultation and examination in public. Further development of strategic policy for the area was covered in the North Northamptonshire Core Spatial Strategy which was adopted by the North Northamptonshire Joint Planning Committee in June 2008 following further public consultation and an examination in public. In none of these documents is Irchester named as a settlement in which major growth is proposed.

The context to the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Sub Regional Strategy was the Government’s concern about increasing house prices and the difficulty that young families were experiencing in accessing adequate housing in places that they wished to live and at prices that they could afford. This has been caused because the numbers of new houses built across the country have for many years been considerably lower than housing needs. For example in the East Midlands while additions to the housing stock in 2008-09 totalled only 14,200, the numbers of new households forming in the region in recent years have risen to around 23,000 per year and projections indicate that this rate is likely to increase. This mismatch is a problem that is continuing to get worse throughout the whole country and the Government are firmly committed to planning to provide for more housing and more affordable housing.

The petition suggests that the Secretary of State should scrap Regional Strategies and return planning decisions to local councils. The Secretary of State does not accept that scrapping Regional Strategies will help to address the housing shortfall; furthermore the decision as to where new housing should be planned for already lies with local planning authorities. As for directing the Borough Council to listen to the views of local people and not to extend the village policy line, it is the Government’s general approach not to interfere with local authorities’ jurisdiction unless it is necessary to do so. Parliament has entrusted them with responsibility for day-to-day planning control in their areas and the Government consider that local planning authorities are normally best placed to make decisions relating to their areas and that it is right that in general, they should be free to carry out their duties responsibly, with the minimum of interference.

Transport

Disrepair (Felstead Road, Castle Point)

The Petition of Mr. Kent Taylor, Mr. Lee Gardiner, residents of Castle Point and others,

Declares that the pavements and Felstead Road between the A13 and Bowers Road, Benfleet are in a state of disrepair; that in their current state, these present a real and immediate danger to local residents, especially the elderly and those with limited mobility, and have already been the cause of several accidents; further, that poorly maintained pavements disadvantage pedestrians, are unsightly and adversely affect local street scene; that for these and other valid reasons, residents call for the immediate repair and continued maintenance of the road and pavements since this is in the public interest.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to press the Borough Council, Essex County Council, the Highways Authority and all Councillors, to ensure the immediate repair and continued maintenance of Felstead Road, Benfleet.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 16 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 848.]

[P000768]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

Felstead Road is a local road for which Essex County Council, as the local highway authority, is responsible for its maintenance and repair.

Local Highway Authorities, such as Essex County Council, have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area. This includes the pavements. It is for each individual authority to assess which parts of its network are in need of repair and what standards should be applied, based upon their local knowledge.

Central Government have no powers to override local decisions in these matters. However, this Department encourages good practice in highway maintenance through channels such as Well Maintained Highways, the code of practice for highway maintenance published in July 2005 by the UK Roads Liaison Group (available through TSO or www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org). The code advises local authorities to establish an inspection regime for their highways, and recommends inspection intervals for the various categories of highways.

Since the introduction of the Local Transport Plan settlement in 2001-02 DFT has more than doubled annual capital funding to local authorities across England (outside London) for maintaining local roads. Funding for 2009-10 is £735 million, up from £265 million in 2001-02. The funding central Government provide to local authorities for highway maintenance is not ring-fenced, and it is for each authority to decide how much is needed to maintain their network. The Government have also provided a total of £32 million to English local authorities to facilitate the production of Transport Asset Management Plans which should help authorities manage their roads, bridges and other highway assets.