HC Deb 10 April 2002 vol 383 cc482-3W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what correspondence he has had concerning his Department's decision to challenge the declaration of a town green in the grounds of St. James' Hospital in Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement; [43824]

(2) if he will make a statement to the House on his proposal to take action against Portsmouth City Council in respect of St. James' Hospital; [43821]

(3) what discussions he has had with the DTLR concerning city council policy on open spaces; and if he will make a statement; [43559]

(4) what consultation he has had with the DTLR concerning Portsmouth City Council's policy on open spaces and St. James' Hospital site; and if he will make a statement; [43825]

(5) what assessment has been made of the compatibility between the proposed action by his Department against Portsmouth Council in regard to St. James' Hospital and the open space in cities policy; and if he will make a statement; [43820]

(6) what action he has taken in respect of Portsmouth City Council's decision to declare a town green in the grounds of St. James' Hospital; and for what reasons. [43822]

Ms Blears

Apart from correspondence with our professional and legal advisers, the Department has received letters from Portsmouth City Council legal department and the hon. Member.

Portsmouth City Council as the registration authority received an application to register part of St. James Hospital, Portsmouth as a Town or Village Green, and appointed an inspector to conduct a non-statutory inquiry which the Department opposed. The Council subsequently determined to approve the application. Based on legal advice the Department has filed an application for a review of the Council's decision. It seems unlikely that the drafters of the Commons Registration Act 1965 intended it to apply to National Health Service (NHS) land.

Discussions have been held with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who are the successor to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, making representation for guidance to make it clear that NHS land within hospitals should not be subject of future applications for registration as a Town or Village Green.

The Department has not discussed with Portsmouth City Council its policy on open spaces either generally or specifically in connection with St. James Hospital. That is a matter for local discussions in the context of a planning application for development on the land remaining in the ownership of the NHS.

The area of land in the proposed Town or Village Green is largely within an area declared surplus to NHS requirements. The site has been marketed with the benefit of outline planning permission for residential development granted by Portsmouth City Council, and with open space provided in accordance with that outline consent.

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