Government plan could aid parks groups

A radical scheme has been launched that is designed to give people the power to demand change in their communities through public petitions.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has revealed more details about the "petition powers" scheme, which could potentially be used by friends groups to demand improvements to local parks.

Blears said: "These new powers would mean the concerns of local people can no longer be filed away and ignored, and ensure we have a more responsive culture."

She added: "New petition powers would put more influence, power and control in the hands of communities, leading to greater action to tackle their concerns and improving the health of our local democracy."

Under the plan, councils would be required to respond to petitions submitted by residents on any issue that the local council has responsibility for, such as parks and open spaces.

At present, councils are not required to respond to petitions, but under the proposed system councils would have to respond to any gaining significant support. Mechanisms are being developed to ensure the council does not ignore a petition.

If approved, the scheme could take effect from 2009, depending on whether legislation is required.

Parks consultants have already raised concerns over the plans (HW, 12 July), with one worried that people at a local level would not have enough knowledge or overview to make a balanced decision.

Consultation on the proposal closes 20 March.


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