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21 July 2014 : Column 9P


Monday 21 July 2014

Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Presented Petition

School Absences

The Petition of Janice Skelcher, a mother living in Coventry,

Declares that she was recently given a conditional discharge for removing her children from school without permission. At the time she was caring for her mother who was terminally ill. The court refused to hear her Article 8 arguments that justified her actions in protecting the mental health of her children by taking them for a break. She has also been hit by an excessive £400 legal costs.

The petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons Education Select Committee reviews the recent changes to the law in respect of school absences and recommends to the government that greater support and flexibility is allowed for parents to enable them to more effectively care for their children.

And them Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by John Hemming .]



Communities and Local Government

Development of Earls Barton Village (Daventry)

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners object to the over-development of Earls Barton Village.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that national planning policies afford appropriate protection for rural communities.

21 July 2014 : Column 10P

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Chris Heaton-Harris , Official Report, 25 June 2014; Vol. 583, c. 436.]


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

Earls Barton lies within the area of the West Northants Joint Core Strategy. The draft Plan has been undergoing formal examination, and hearings were held on 18 March. It is now for the Planning Inspector to write his report to the local authority, setting out any conclusions and recommendations and the reasoning behind them. The report will be a public document.

The Secretary of State has a quasi-judicial role in the planning system, and the planning inspectors who examine draft Local Plans on his behalf exercise independent judgment when assessing the soundness of a draft Plan. A Plan is sound if it is properly prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in the Framework. The latter includes many environmental safeguards, and protection for heritage assets and their setting. It also requires planning to take account of the character of different areas, to recognise the character and beauty of the countryside, and to support thriving rural communities.

It is for the local authority to interpret and apply the Framework to particular local circumstances.

Under the Localism Act, we abolished regional strategies and the top-down pressure they tended to put on Green Belts and other countryside. This means that local authorities, in consultation with local people, determine how land should be used, and where new development should or should not go. The Act also gave communities a new right to undertake neighbourhood planning, in addition to existing opportunities for involvement in planning. The people of Earls Barton have used these powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan. A neighbourhood plan that is successful at examination and supported by the community at local referendum can then be adopted as part of the development plan for the area. Under our Plan-led system this gives people real influence over the shape of and quality of development in their neighbourhood.