Joint Committee on the City of Stoke-on-Trent Tunstall Northern By-Pass Local Government Act Compulsory Purchase Order 1997 Special Report



15 DECEMBER 1999


1. The Joint Committee has considered the City of Stoke-on-Trent Tunstall Northern-By-Pass Local Government Act Compulsory Purchase Order 1997, and we report that the Order be approved with amendments.

2. Joint Committees on Special Procedure Orders are a rare occurrence.[1] Special Reports from Joint Committees on Special Procedure Orders are even rarer.[2] We are making this Special Report in order to draw the attention of both Houses of Parliament to a number of issues of concern to the Committee, and in the hope that some lessons from this enquiry will be drawn by those involved in similar planning exercises in the future.


3. A Special Procedure Order is a type of private legislation: that is, a piece of legislation which seeks to confer particular benefits on particular individuals, institutions or localities, over and above the provisions of the general law of the land. It is distinguished from public legislation, which relates to the public general law affecting everybody. Unlike a public bill, private legislation is not introduced to Parliament by a member but by an outside body such as a company or local authority, which is known as the promoter.

4. A Special Procedure Order is different from other types of private legislation in that it is presented to Parliament under the provisions of a public Act (the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945): the procedure of scrutiny of the Order in Parliament is therefore similar to the procedure for scrutiny of secondary public legislation (statutory instruments such as regulations empowered by general Acts of Parliament). A Government Department is involved in drawing up the Order and making sure that the proper procedures of consultation and scrutiny are carried out. The instrument's particular local effects are acknowledged in preliminary stages of consultation and local inquiry, and the rules which apply to other types of private legislation regarding the right to object apply.


5. The City of Stoke-on-Trent Tunstall Northern By-Pass Local Government Act Compulsory Purchase Order was made by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 26 September 1997 and confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in exercise of his powers under section 121 of the Local Government Act 1972. The Order provides for the acquisition of various parcels of land comprising a total area of 57.9 hectares (143 acres) to the north of Tunstall. The Order would facilitate the construction of a highway (known as the Tunstall Northern By-Pass) between High Street, Sandyford and St. Michael's Road, Pitts Hill, passing to the north-east of Tunstall.

6. In view of objections which were received on publication of the Order, the Secretary of State caused a Public Inquiry to be held. This took place between 28 and 30 April and 9 and 10 June 1998 before Mr F. D. Woodrow, an independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. The Inspector, in his report dated 8 August 1998, recommended that the Compulsory Purchase Order and a Highways Act Order relating to the scheme should be confirmed subject to a technical modification proposed by the Council. The Inspector also concluded that the proposed certificate under section 19(1)(a) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 should not be issued. He concluded[3] that the quantity of exchange land proposed would be not less in area than the order public open space land which would be lost but he also concluded[4] that the exchange land would not provide at the time of exchange, overall equality of advantage compared with the lost order land.[5]

7. The Secretary of State considered the report of the Inspector and indicated in a letter dated 1 December 1998 that he accepted the Inspector's conclusions and recommendations, subject to clarification being received on a number of points including the provision of two additional crossings across the proposed by-pass, and the Council has undertaken to incorporate them into the scheme. By his letter of 13 April 1999, the Secretary of State decided to confirm the Order with modifications subject to Special Parliamentary Procedure. He also confirmed the related Side Roads Order and the Highways Act Order.[6]


8. A petition is a summary of objections to a Special Procedure Order. Formally, it is a request to the House of Commons or the House of Lords for the petitioner to be allowed to argue their case, in due course, before a committee considering the Order. Unless there are no petitions against an Order, or all petitions against the Order are withdrawn, it is referred to a Joint Committee of the Commons and Lords.

9. It is open to any individual, group of individuals or organisation "directly and specially affected" by the provisions of an Order to petition against it. Twenty-one petitions were received against this Order. All of these petitions were certified by the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords and the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons as petitions of general objection.


10. A Joint Committee on a Special Procedure Order consists of three members of each House. The Committee exercises a quasi-judicial function. It hears argument and evidence from promoters and petitioners and reaches a verdict. Parties may be represented by counsel or agents, or may represent themselves; opposing sides can cross-examine each other's witnesses.

11. The Joint Committee on this Order heard Counsel and Witnesses during eight days of sittings at Westminster, starting on 29 November 1999. In addition, all members of the Committee visited the site on 1 December. The Committee met to deliberate in private session on a number of occasions, and sought independent legal advice on the Committee's powers from Speaker's Counsel in the House of Commons and Counsel to the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords. In total, the Committee sat for 10 days, excluding the site visit. This was therefore a lengthier enquiry than that undertaken by the Independent Inspector, although we were struck by the similarity of our conclusions.

12. As the Factual Statement makes clear, the Inspector had no discretion under section 19 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 to balance the highway scheme against the loss of public open space. Under section 19 he is able only to issue or decline to issue a section 19 certificate. It is for Parliament, in cases such as this where the certificate has not been issued, to carry out the balancing exercise which the Inspector was unable to do.

13. It was the task - and indeed the duty - of this Committee to perform the parliamentary balancing exercise. The decision we have reached was unanimous.


14. The powers of Joint Committees on opposed special procedure orders are set out in statute. We quote the relevant section of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945.[7]

"5.-(1) Where any petition against an order to which this Act applies is referred to a joint committee of both Houses under the last foregoing section, the order shall stand referred to that committee for the purpose of the consideration of the petition, and the committee shall have power to report the order either without amendment or with such amendments as they think expedient to give effect, either in whole or in part, to any such petition, and with such consequential amendments, if any, as they think proper.

(2) Where any petition so referred to the joint committee is a petition of general objection, and the committee, upon consideration of the petition, are satisfied that effect ought to be given thereto, they may report the order with amendments notwithstanding that the petition is one of general objection, but if in their opinion the order ought not to take effect, they shall report that the order be not approved.

(3) Subject to Standing Orders, the report of the joint committee in respect of any such order shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament."

15. As we have already stated, all 21 of the petitions before us were petitions of general objection. Accordingly our powers are drawn from section 5(2) of the Act.


16. During the course of our enquiry we decided to concentrate on the issue of exchange land. Although no petition asked for or identified extra exchange land, several petitions objected that the exchange land to be provided was not equally advantageous. The following table sets out those references in the various petitions which we found particularly pertinent to this issue.

Petition Number
Paragraph reference
6, 7, 9
6, 18
5(x) and (xi)
11, 17

17. This Committee had no power to give effect to specified amendments asked for in a Petition for Amendment, since none were asked for. Our two amendments (one of which is a consequential amendment) relate to those Petitions of General Objection which complained of the disadvantageous nature of the exchange land.

18. Our main amendment relates to the Clanway Farm site, north of the proposed Greenway roundabout. In making this amendment we had in mind paragraphs 155 and 156 of the Inspector's report, which we endorse in their entirety.

19. As the Inspector's report states, the Clanway Farm site is intended for mainly housing-related development, and the Council has passed a resolution to grant planning permission for such development subject to the entering-into of a satisfactory Section 106 agreement. The Inspector also noted that a long strip of this site, about 27m wide on average, which is presently rough and hummocky regenerated heath land running north-south on the immediate west side of the Greenway, is proposed to be added to the Greenway as public open space exchange land.[8]

20. Paragraphs 155 and 156 of the Inspector's report are as follows:

"155. These calculations of discounted value above are, of course, largely subjective and should not be regarded as representing a precise numerical comparison. It seems to me that the proper conclusion to draw from them is that in terms of advantage, and disregarding the synergy effect, the exchange land shows no balance of advantage over the order land. However, I consider that the synergy effect should not be disregarded, and taking into account from this point of view the spatial and functional continuity provided by the order land, and having due regard to the prospects of future improvement of the exchange land, I am far from satisfied that the exchange land would provide, at the time of exchange, overall equality of advantage compared with the lost order land. I therefore conclude that the proposed Certificate under Section 19(1)(a) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 should not be issued.

156. In order for the Council to overcome this deficiency I consider that it would be necessary for it both to add substantially to the exchange land and to present a detailed and satisfactory scheme for landscaping it. There is no obvious best location for such additional land, but as the most useful approach would in my view include building up the mass of uninterrupted public open space the area of the marl hole to the west of the southern end of Plot 6 might be worth consideration."

21. We agree.


22. We are confident that the Inspector's inquiry was properly carried out. And we do not question - although several petitioners did, so this issue was one which was before us - the promoters' case that "the City Council, in promoting this scheme, did what they thought was right, according to Statute".[9]

23. It is our firm belief that Stoke City Council, at all stages in the planning process, has followed the letter of the law. But as Parliamentarians all of us would have wished that the City Council might have been more generous in its interpretation of the spirit of the law in this matter. And had we been residents of Stoke-on-Trent in 1997, and had seen the City Council's information document which ended, in a larger typeface, with the statement that "The proposed Tunstall Northern Bypass will be the subject of a full Public Inquiry scheduled to take place during January 1998",[10] all of us would have taken these words at face value.

24. It is an indisputable fact that no full Public Inquiry took place in January 1998.


25. We attached particular importance to petition No. 11, by Mrs Claire Weatherall and Mr Mark Weatherall. Both these petitioners are permanent wheelchair users, and they objected that the disadvantageous nature of the exchange land would be "particularly pronounced for vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and infirm."[11]

26. We would expect the Council, in landscaping appropriate parts of the exchange land, to pay special attention to the needs of people with disabilities. This would also benefit people using pushchairs, who may or may not be supervising older children playing on the public open space.[12]

27. Our visit to Tunstall enabled us to experience for ourselves the difficulties which some users of the existing public open space must have in accessing some of the space. We note that the Council did not consult disabled access groups at all about the open spaces concerned,[13] and that the Council's own access officer was probably not consulted either.[14] We would expect much closer consultation with interest groups in the future, including those representing people with disabilities, in accordance with best practice.


28. Unusually for an enquiry of this kind, we heard directly the voices of some children and young people. Had we not done so, our conclusions on the recreational needs of children and young people - and the young of heart - would have remained the same. The City Council is expecting to improve the formal recreational facilities available, including the provision of a BMX track, and much of what is planned sounded admirable. But we would urge the Council - and similar planning authorities throughout the country - to bear in mind the need for uninterrupted open space, accessible to all, including people with disabilities and pushchair users, where people can simply let off steam.

29. We heard also from those concerned about provision for horse riding, who will be particularly disadvantaged under the scheme.[15] We note that they will not be able to pursue their activity on the replacement land.


30. The Tunstall Northern By-pass has been under discussion for a quarter of a century. As Mr Tams, assistant director of engineering for the Council, told the Committee, "it has been the democratically approved policy of the City Council for the last 15 years to construct this road, to facilitate the regeneration of the northern part of the city and Tunstall in particular. If this road does not now go ahead, that whole policy and that whole strategy will be severely compromised. It will clearly undermine the regeneration proposals for the area and there is no doubt that … if we look at … Newfields and Clanway Farm, those brownfield areas of land cannot be brought forward at all without the construction of the road. … The final, missing link will be much missed because it will not complete the highway network that is necessary to facilitate the traffic growth that is going to happen in that part of the city whatever."[16]

31. Given that this is the case, the chronology of events which the Committee established on days 5 and 6 of its enquiry was astonishing. Stoke-on-Trent City Council, as the planning authority, approved the City Plan in September 1993.[17] Also in 1993 Stoke City Council declared the Greenway roundabout area a public open space. If the Council had not taken that decision in 1993 the Compulsory Purchase Order needed to construct the by-pass would not have attracted special parliamentary procedure.[18] Months of work and considerable sums of public money would have been saved.


32. The amendments we have made to the City of Stoke-on-Trent Tunstall Northern-By-Pass Local Government Act Compulsory Purchase Order 1997 are intended to ensure that the residents of the City of Stoke-on-Trent continue to enjoy access to adequate public open space. Provided this is so, we hope that all the parties will agree that the time and effort they have spent during this Special Parliamentary Procedure will have been worthwhile.

1   This is the third such Joint Committee in the period since 1997. Back

2   We are aware of only five such reports having been published previously. Back

3   Paragraph 146 of the Inspector's report. Back

4   Paragraph 155 of the Inspector's report. Back

5   Factual Statement, paragraphs 8-10. Back

6   Factual Statement, paragraph 11. Back

7   c. 18, as amended by the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1965 (1965 c. 43). Back

8   Inspector's report, paragraph 26. Back

9   Minutes of Evidence, day 7, p 39 (Mr Clarkson summing up the promoters' case). Back

10   This passage was handed in twice during the enquiry, initially as part of promoters' exhibit 6B. Back

11   Petition No. 11, paragraph 7. Back

12   We noted, for example, that one of the petitioners, Mrs Sandra Hughes (petition no. 20) was a child-minder who used the open space to the benefit of children in her charge. Back

13   Minutes of Evidence, day 6, QQ 317-320; day 5, QQ 271-272. Back

14   Minutes of Evidence, day 6, Q 321. Back

15   In particular, the petition of the Newchapel Riders Association and the petition of Cathrine Ann Taylor. Back

16   Minutes of Evidence, day 5, QQ 45-46. Back

17   Minutes of Evidence, day 5, Q 19. Back

18   Minutes of Evidence, day 6, QQ 325-330 (Mr Spink's evidence). Back

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