Response To The Appropriation Of The Land At The Uplands
Nailsea Town Council (NTC) is bitterly disappointed that Cllr Steve Bridger, Executive Member for Asset at North Somerset Council (NSC) has made the decision to ‘appropriate’ the public open space at The Uplands, Nailsea.
The Town Council had written to Cllr Bridger drawing his attention NTC’s serious concerns with the decision report produced by NSC officers. NSC could not use its statutory powers to appropriate the land to planning purposes without going through due process as outlined in Section 122 of the Local Government Act 1972.
In NSC’s report to Cllr Bridger it states
‘The Council already owns the freehold of the Site, and is a ‘principal council’. Therefore, the Council needs to be satisfied that:
Whether land is no longer required for a particular purpose for which it is currently held, meaning no longer needed in the public interest of the locality for that purpose, is a question for the local authority, subject to Wednesbury principles of reasonableness, and not the Court;’
The key words in section 122 are that the land “….is no longer required for the purpose for which it is held immediately before the appropriation”
NSC has not shown that the open space is no longer required for the purpose for which it was held. NTC advised NSC that the open space known to the residents of Nailsea as ‘The Uplands’, was, from as long ago as 1966, identified as land intended for the purpose of Public Open Space. The Local Authority purchased the land in July 1997 for Public Open Space purposes under the provisions of the Community Land Act 1975. Up until the present day the site has been used for sport, recreation, leisure and play. At no time in the last 43 years has this stopped, either when it was an informal public open space, or for the 24 years it has been in the local authorities’ ownership.
In the report NSC tries to justify the loss of public open space as being of lesser importance than the delivery of sufficient and high-quality, sustainable houses across North Somerset and is in the interests of the wider community and to meet the needs of current and future residents.
They state that ’On balance, there are sufficient open space and recreation facilities in the local area to off-set this loss, therefore it is considered that the Site is no longer required for open space and appropriation for planning purposes is justified.’
NTC asserts that the statement is flawed that it is in the wider public interest to increase the number of homes in the district, over the local needs for open space. Nailsea will see an increase of over 600 new dwellings within 200m of The Uplands. The increase in homes is already evident. The Uplands needs to be kept as a public open space for leisure and recreation, particularly with the additional people that will come with these 600 new dwellings. No alternative land has been offered by North Somerset Council to replace this much loved and used public open space.
Jo Duffy, Town Clerk commented that “There is limited public open space in Nailsea, and during the current pandemic more people have used the space to get fresh air and exercise than in quite some time.”
Public Health England states in its Health Matters: Getting Every Adult Active Every Day ’Increasing physical activity has the potential to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole. Public Health England (PHE) wants to see more people being physically active.’ It goes on to say ’Improving or adding green spaces and tree cover improves air quality as well as making spaces feel more welcoming. Such changes have prompted substantial shifts from car transport to walking and cycling.’
Cllr Mike Bird, Chair of NTC said: “The Uplands has always been greatly valued by the local community as Public Open space and Nailsea residents have been very vocal in their defence of that status. The North Somerset Council decision document clearly ignores this.”
The Town Council understands that the District Councillors representing the town will be ‘calling in’ the decision with North Somerset Council’s Community and Corporate Organisation Policy and Scrutiny Panel.