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Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2013


Tuesday 19 March 2013


Communities and Local Government

Regeneration of Chatsworth Gardens (Morecambe)

The Humble Petition of residents of Morecambe,


That the Petitioners support the campaign by Steve Swithin to regenerate the West End and the Petitioners understand that Lancaster City Council will receive £1.9 million to tackle clusters of empty homes in their area bringing 114 empty homes back into use.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Department for Communities and Local Government to spend all of the mentioned £1.9 million on redevelopment for Morecambe’s West End.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by David Morris, Official Report, 03 December 2012; Vol. 554, c. 696.]


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

On 29 May 2012, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government allocated £60 million of capital funding to tackle “clusters” of empty homes in areas of lower demand, but where there was good potential for homes to be occupied. Funding was allocated as un-ring-fenced grant to 20 local authorities, including £1,910,788 to Lancaster City Council. This funding will bring 3,600 homes back into use through an intensive street by street approach. Some of these will be at an affordable rent but there will also be mixed tenure schemes, reflecting the nature of local housing markets. The Government’s funding needed to be match funded with this coming from either public or private sector sources.

Lancaster City Council’s award was to bring up to 114 empty homes back as part of the wider improvement strategy for the Morecambe West End’s housing. The Cluster area focuses on the Central West End area and includes the whole of the Chatsworth Gardens site. Since receiving the Secretary of State’s approval of the project, Lancaster City Council have been considering the most positive and viable route to deliver the programme. A way forward has now been proposed and agreed by their Cabinet on 4 December 2012.

West Lancashire developments

The Petition of residents of West Lancashire,

Declares that the Petitioners reject the proposed developments by West Lancashire Borough Council in their West Lancashire Local Plan because of the following detrimental effects; the loss of Green Belt and agricultural land, the loss of a safety buffer between residential and industrial areas, the further strain on inadequate infrastructure; roads, sewers, health services and schools, the damage to the environment through pollution and loss of habitat, the devaluation of property, the loss of identity as a village and finally because there is no guaranteed benefits to local residents.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to stop the proposed developments in the West Lancashire Local Plan by West Lancashire Borough Council.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Rosie Cooper, Official Report, 11 February 2013; Vol. 558, c. 681.]


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

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware the West Lancashire Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 31 October 2012 for examination. An independent inspector has been appointed to examine whether the submitted plan is sound. The Examination Hearings commenced on 19 February 2013 and are currently underway.

The purpose of the independent examination is set out at section 20 (5) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The role of the inspector is to assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with relevant legal requirements, and whether it is sound. For a plan to be found sound it must be positively prepared, justified, legally compliant and consistent with national policies. At the Examination stage the council will also need to demonstrate how it has appropriately considered the views of local people; and demonstrate that its proposals are based on robust evidence.

It is the role of the independent inspector to assess the soundness of Local Plans, not for central Government. If requested to do so by the local council, the inspector may recommend modifications to the plan that he or she considers are necessary for the plan to be found sound. The council may also propose its own modifications. Should a plan be found sound, it is up to individual councils to decide whether to take it forward to adoption.

Under section 21 of the 2004 Act, if the Secretary of State thinks that a local development document (Local Plan) is unsatisfactory he may at any time before the document is adopted direct the local planning authority to modify the document in accordance with the direction and give reasons. Section 27 of the Act applies if the Secretary of State thinks that a local planning authority are failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for them to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document. This is a power of last resort and such powers are only used in exceptional circumstances.