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Petitions

Volume 532: debated on Wednesday 7 September 2011

Petitions

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Observations

Communities and Local Government

Redevelopment of Rushden Hospital Site

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

Sheweth,

that the proposed revised redevelopment of the Rushden Hospital site for housing is unpopular, ill-advised and detrimental to the residents of Rushden; that over 25% of the residents of Rushden petitioned the House of Commons for a new outpatient facility in the town, the majority wanting the new facility on the Rushden hospital site; that the proposal to build housing on the site instead of an NHS facility is unacceptable and the impact on the surrounding roads of a large housing development and the density of the development and the proposed cut through to the Greenacre Drive Estate is wholly detrimental to local residents and notes that a similar proposal for housing development on this site was not approved by East Northamptonshire District Council.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to urge the Department of Health to withdraw the revised planning application and further urges him to request that the District Council of East Northamptonshire and the County Council and the Primary Care Trust work together to provide a suitable health facility on the site.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Peter Bone, Official Report, 5 July 2011; Vol. 530, c. 1481 .]

[P000937]

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

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware that a planning application has been submitted to East Northamptonshire District Council by the Department for Health. He is advised that the application was validated 4 June 2010 is pending determination.

East Northamptonshire District Council is responsible for the day-to-day development management matters in that area. It would be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to intervene in respect of any planning application which is with a local planning authority for consideration.

Furthermore, it would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to intervene in health service provision matters. These decisions fall within the purview of the Secretary of State for Health.

There is a statutory framework in place to ensure that local planning authorities publicise the planning applications that are submitted to them, and have regard to any representations that they receive on those applications from members of the community and others.

In determining any planning application the local planning authority are required to have regard the development plan for the area, so far as it is material to the application being considered, and to any other material considerations.

While the Secretary of State does have powers to “call-in” a planning application for his own determination, if he considers that it raises matters of more than local importance, his policy is to be very selective about this. The Secretary of State has not been asked to call this particular application in.

As it is possible that this proposal may, at some future date, come within his jurisdiction (for example in the event of a planning appeal), it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific issues raised in the petition.

Justice

Sentences for causing death by dangerous driving

The Petition of Christine, Kevin and Victoria Shields and others,

Declares that the Petitioners’ beloved daughter, Katie, was killed on the A16 last year by a speeding driver; and that the offender received just two years for this crime.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Government to introduce stiffer sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented, Official Report, 14 September 2010; Vol. 515, c. 9P-10P .]

[P000861]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice:

The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years custody as well as a compulsory minimum two-year disqualification and an extended re-test. Within this statutory limit it is for the courts to decide what sentence to impose in any particular case. The courts operate independently of Government and in deciding what sentence to impose, take into account all the circumstances of the offence and the offender, together with any aggravating and mitigating circumstances and sentencing guidelines. There are no plans to increase this maximum penalty.

The independent Sentencing Guidelines Council published its Guideline on Causing Death by Driving in July 2008. The Guideline details 3 levels of seriousness. At the most serious end of the scale. Level 1 offences encompass driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others. The starting point for such an offence would be eight years custody, with a sentencing range of seven to 14 years custody. Level 2 offences, where the driving created a substantial risk of danger, have a starting point of five years and a sentencing range of four to seven years custody. Level 3 offences, at the other end of the scale, where the driving behaviour created a significant risk of danger have a starting point of three years and a sentencing range of two to five years custody.

Road traffic cases present particular difficulties for the courts. This is because it is not always the worst transgression by a driver that has the most tragic consequences. Sometimes the consequences of a collision may be entirely disproportionate to the culpability of the offender. A relatively minor misdemeanour by a driver may have very tragic consequences whereas thoroughly reckless behaviour on the road may fortuitously result in little, if any, harm. The law therefore seeks to punish those who cause death or injury on the road in a way that is appropriate to the degree of blameworthiness on the part of the driver.