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Volume 573: debated on Wednesday 8 January 2014


Wednesday 8 January 2014


Communities and Local Government

Development of a Public Open Space near Astro Grove (Longton, Stoke-on-Trent)

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.

Redevelopment of the Old Royal Ordnance Factory Site (Puriton, Somerset)

The Petition of residents of Puriton, Somerset,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the proposed redevelopment of the old Royal Ordnance Factory site is unacceptable on grounds of air pollution, noise, village access, visual impact and the overall character of the development.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons take note of the plans in advance of consideration by the local planning authority.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Official Report, 7 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 522.]


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 Sedgemoor District Council in respect of the above development.

Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for considering proposals for development in their areas. Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the statutory development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise. These material considerations include national planning policy. Local authorities will also take into account representations from the local community on the planning merits of the proposal.

The National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that an application for renewable or low carbon energy development should only be approved if the impact is—or can be made—acceptable. To help implement the framework, the Department for Communities and Local Government published on 29 July new planning practice guidance for renewable and low carbon energy, setting out clearly that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities.

Through a series of reforms the Government are making the planning process more accessible to local communities because planning works best when communities themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives. Due to the Secretary of State’s role in the planning system it would not be appropriate to comment further on the application.


Heaton Chapel Train Station (Stockport)

The Petition of Friends of Heaton Chapel train station,

Declares that 619,506 passengers purchase tickets at Heaton Chapel train station every year; further declares that there is currently no disabled access to the train station; further declares that Heaton Chapel train station is not compliant with national legislation; and further declares that accessibility for disabled people at Heaton Chapel train station must be improved and barriers to transport removed in accordance with the Department for Transport’s March 2006 “Railways for All” strategy.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Transport to work in conjunction with Transport for Greater Manchester, Stockport MBC, Network Rail and Northern Rail to undertake an urgent feasibility study setting out a business case to support the provision of new disabled access facilities and further requests that the House urges the Department for Transport to give greater priority to improve Greater Heaton Chapel train station over all other less well used stations in Greater Manchester.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Ann Coffey, Official Report, 5 December 2013; Vol. 571, c. 1191.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

The Department continues to strongly support improvements to access for disabled passengers at UK railway stations.

We have therefore continued with the £370 million Access for All programme, launched in 2006 as part of the Railways for All Strategy, which will provide an accessible route at more than 150 stations by 2015. One hundred and five of these projects are now complete and to date over 1,100 stations have also received smaller scale access improvements. To build on this success we have made £100 million available to extend the programme from its scheduled close in 2015 until 2019.

Stations are selected for this funding based on their annual footfall, weighted by the incidence of disability in the area and taking into account other factors such as proximity to local hospitals or the availability of third-party funding. Around a third will also be selected to ensure a fair geographical spread across the country.

We are also keen to reflect the preferences of the industry in selecting stations. The train operating companies, in consultation with local transport authorities and Network Rail, were therefore asked to nominate stations for the extended programme by 15 November 2013. Although 277 stations were nominated, Heaton Chapel was not included. It will therefore not be considered for the Access for All programme before 2019.

In the meantime Northern Rail meet their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 by making reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled access to their services. For example, for those who cannot use the steep ramps to the platforms at Heaton Chapel can request a free taxi to the next station that they are able to access.