The Petition of residents of Stoke-on-Trent,
Declares that land transferred to Stoke-on-Trent City Council by the Highways Agency in 1997, to compensate for the loss of public space from the construction of the A50 road, should retain its intended usage and function as a public space. The land in question, near to Astro Grove, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, exists as a Public Open Space (POS) and thus restrictions are in place to limit its usage and to prevent development on the site. Stoke-on-Trent City Council has also received funding to carry out appropriate landscape treatment on this site in order to retain its function.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons ensures that this land is not to be sold for any development, and is only to be kept and maintained for leisure purposes, in line with the requirements of the Public Open Space order.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Robert Flello, Official Report, 12 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 925.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:
Local authorities have general and discretionary powers under section l23 of the Local Government Act 1972 and section 233 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to dispose of land.
For these purposes, open space is defined in section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as:
“....any land laid out as a public garden, or used for the purposes of public recreation, or land which is a disused burial ground”.
A local authority proposing to dispose of open space must give notice in a local newspaper and consider any objections received before disposing of the land.
In relation to allowing development on open space, day-to-day planning control is the responsibility of the local planning authority, and it would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to comment on the case. In determining a planning application for development, the local planning authority, who will have a good knowledge of the local circumstances, are required to have regard to all material considerations including the development plan, national policies and views expressed by the community and third parties.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has the power to call-in a planning application for his own determination, if he considers that it raises matters of more than local importance, but his policy is to be very selective in the exercise of this power. As it is possible that this proposal may, at some future date, come before him, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific case raised in the petition. However, in general, the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that existing open space should not be built on unless:
an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or
the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or
the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss.
It is, of course, open to a member of the public aggrieved by a local authority’s actions to apply for judicial review if they believe the actions were wrong in law, or they can ask the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate if they consider that injustice has been caused to them as a result of maladministration.