The Humble Petition of the residents of the parish of South Stoke and its neighbouring parishes and wards of Bath and North East Somerset, here represented by South Stoke Parish Council and the South of Bath Alliance,
Sheweth that it is the intention of Bath and North East Somerset District Council’s Amended Core Strategy to develop the land known as the Odd Down/South Stoke Plateau with the building of 300 new homes.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House ask Her Majesty’s Government to recognise the importance of the openness of this land, which forms part of the Setting of the Bath World Heritage Site and of the Wansdyke Scheduled Ancient Monument, and to maintain the current Statutory protections of the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designations for all of the South Stoke Plateau and so maintain the site free of development in perpetuity.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c—[Presented by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Official Report, 10 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 147.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, received on Friday 28 March 2014:
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has made clear to all local authorities the role and importance of land designations such as Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Site, and Scheduled Ancient Monument. The Government’s objectives for these areas are set out clearly in the National Planning Policy Framework, and all relevant policies in the Framework are a material consideration for a local authority which is working on its Local Plan or determining a planning application.
We have maintained strong protections for the Green Belt. The Framework makes it clear, for instance, that openness and permanence are essential characteristics of a Green Belt. This Government continue to attach great importance to Green Belt as a way to prevent sprawl and encroachment on open countryside, and as a vital “green lung” for many communities. Our abolition of top-down regional strategies removed the threat to Green Belt round many towns and cities.
His quasi-judicial role in the planning system prevents the Secretary of State—and other Ministers—intervening during the process of Plan-making. Draft Plans have to be submitted for formal examination by an independent planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, and a strict duty of impartiality is in place. Moreover, whatever Plan is adopted, it is possible that a development proposal affecting this area might come within the Secretary of State’s jurisdiction, so it would be inappropriate to comment on the issues raised in the petition.
The petitioners should also be aware that Green Belts are designated by local authorities, not law or central Government. Alterations to a Green Belt boundary can be made, but only in exceptional circumstances, using the Local Plan process. If any conflict of policy or planning priorities arises, it is for the local authority to weigh all the material considerations and decide what is right for the land in question. The petitioners should continue to ensure that their local authority is mindful of their hopes and concerns.