The petition of residents of Haughton Green and Denton,
Declares that the fields of the former Two Trees High School in Denton should be protected from unwanted development; and further that the site should be preserved for the benefit of the environment and future generations.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretaries of State for Education and Communities and Local Government to protect Haughton Green and Denton’s open spaces, and prohibit unwanted development on the former site of Two Trees High School.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Gwynne , Official Report, 25 May 2016; Vol. 611, c. 649.]
Observations from The Minister for Schools (Mr Nick Gibb):
The development of any site would require planning permission. The planning process is largely a local matter and the Secretary of State for Education has no role—statutory or otherwise—in it.
I should also make it clear that planning Ministers would not intervene in, or even comment on, a particular planning situation, because their quasi-judicial role in the planning system imposes a strict duty of impartiality. It is for the local authority, in consultation with the local community, to propose policies for the local plan which it considers are right for the area; and then to decide planning applications in accord with the plan adopted and any other relevant consideration, such as policy in the National Planning Policy Framework.
In addition to the planning process, the Education Act 2011 requires that the Secretary of State must give consent prior to the disposal of land which has been used for any school or academy in the last eight years. A key consideration for the Government is whether the land proposed for disposal could be suitable for use by a new academy or free school.
School playing fields are also protected by Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Schools and local authorities must obtain the Secretary of State’s approval before they can dispose of their land. Applications to dispose of school playing fields are first considered by the school playing fields advisory panel, who make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, before she then makes her final decision.
At this time, we are not aware of an application by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council to seek approval to dispose of the former Two Trees Sports College, including the playing fields. Should an application be submitted, the Secretary of State takes into account any groups or organisations with permission to use the playing fields and what suitable alternative provision they may have been offered. Local schools, which are deficient in playing field land, should also be offered the opportunity to use the playing field before any application is presented. She will also take into account local school place needs and any academy requirement.