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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : My right hon. Friend will shortly be announcing a number of proposals for legislation designed to ensure more effective action to be taken against litterers and litter ; to set clear standards for cleanliness in public places ; and to ensure that those standards are met.
59. Mr. Andrew Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Government plan to bring forward legislation to enable local authorities to issue fixed penalty tickets for litter offences ; and whether he will make a statement.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Government are considering fixed penalty schemes for littering as one of a range of options for improving legislation to combat litter, which my right hon. Friend intends to announce soon.
Mr. Moynihan : It is for the national governing bodies of sport to seek to attract major sporting events to this country. I have no doubt that, as in the past, we can look forward to many major sporting events being staged in the United Kingdom.
70. Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions in the past 10 years Britain has been the venue for international sporting events ; and what discussions are currently taking place on the possibility of future events being held within the United Kingdom.
Mr. Moynihan : This information is not held centrally. It is for the national governing bodies of sport to decide whether to bid to host international sporting events. I have no doubt we can look forward to many future international sporting events being held in this country.
38. Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make it his policy to increase his Department's sponsorship of environmental research projects with particular reference to all matters of public interest for which his Department has some responsibility.
Mr. Ridley : The scale of my Department's expenditure on environmental research is assessed on the needs to inform decisions, guide policy, and monitor the achievement of environmental goals. It is planned to increase from £31.5 million in 1988-89 to £35.8 million in this financial year.
39. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to recommend the environmental statement by Wyre Forest district council as a model for other local authorities.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : No. Local authorities have a range of important environmental responsibilities, such as the collection and disposal of waste and the control of certain sources of air pollution. We look to them to ensure
Column 488that they discharge these responsibilities effectively, as well as taking informed purchasing decisions, which is a main concern of Wyre Forest district council's statement.
Mr. Trippier : Since 1979-80, when the enhanced urban programme was introduced, an estimated total of some 43,500 projects have been assisted. This includes projects supported under the former traditional urban programme.
42. Sir Peter Blaker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to which European Community member states had more rivers in good or fair condition than the United Kingdom at the latest date for which figures are available.
Mr. Howard : The 1985 river quality surveys indicated that about 95 per cent. of river lengths in the United Kingdom were classifed as being of good or fair quality. Comprehensive information on a comparable basis for other EC member states is not available. However, a study published in 1988 by the Water Research Centre, in reviewing classification schemes in member states, showed that on the basis of comparisons made using the United Kingdom river classification scheme, no other member state had a greater proportion of "good" or "fair" quality rivers, although our position was matched by that of the Netherlands. A summary of these results is published in the Water Authorities' Association publication "Water Facts 1988".
43. Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will give his Department's latest estimate of the number of families accepted as being homeless for inner London ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Trippier : Latest estimates of households accepted as homeless in inner London appear in table 1(a) of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act : England. Results for the first quarter of 1989, Supplementary Tables", which are in the Library.
Mr. Howard : Our proposals were published last January in the White Paper on the future of development plans, Cm. 569. The counties will continue to have a key role in the planning process, but will be expected in future to concentrate on those planning issues which genuinely need to be considered on a county-wide basis. Structure plans will be replaced by statements of county planning policies--SCPPs--dealing with a specified range of topics. Each district planning authority will be required to have regard to the SCPP and to ensure that its district development plan is consistent with the SCPP.
Column 489Each county will be responsible for adopting its own SCPP, and for conducting the public examination of the draft statement. My right hon. Friend will continue to appoint the chairman of the panel, and the inspector member, but the statement will not be subject to his formal approval, unless reserve powers are invoked.
Mr. Gummer : The report of a preliminary survey carried out by the Inland Revenue of the effects of the uniform business rate and the 1990 revaluation of business property, which is available in the Library, suggests that rate bills for businesses in the northern region could fall by some £50 million a year once the transition to the new system is complete.
Separate figures on the effects of revaluation in Northumberland are not available. However, if the uniform business rate had been introduced this year the effect would have been to reduce the rate poundage paid by businesses in Northumberland by between 15 and 24 per cent. depending on the district council area concerned.
76. Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further proposals he has to increase the supply of low-cost houses for rent in rural and urban areas ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Trippier : The Government have taken a variety of measures to encourage supply of affordable rented housing, including the deregulation of private letting, the encouragement of private investment in housing associations and an 80 per cent. increase in funding for the Housing Corporation.
74. Mr. Barron : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has plans to advise planning authorities to make land available in urban and rural areas for (a) rented accommodation and (b) affordable housing ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 490securing the release of land for low-cost housing to meet local needs in rural areas. Planning policy guidance note 3 stresses that the planning system should cater effectively for the demand for land both for owner occupation and for rented housing. This applies to urban and to rural areas.
Mr. Trippier : My right hon. Friend receives many representations on the housing problems of both rural and urban areas from hon. Members, from interest groups, and from members of the public. The Government's policy on rural housing was set out in his statement of 5 July 1988, and amplified in statements of 3 and 7 February, copies of which are in the Library.
Mr. Gummer : We are concerned about the high incidence of complaints to the Department about alleged anti-competitive behaviour by authorities in introducing competition under the Local Government Act 1988. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has strong sanction powers under the Act and he will not hesitate to use them when necessary.
Mr. Chope : Figures for November 1988 show that 243 of the 296 non- metropolitan districts in England do not have local plans on deposit or adopted which fully cover their areas. Planning policy guidance note 12 urged authorities to extend local plan coverage, and current indications are that most authorities intend to complete draft plans for the whole of their districts within the next two years. The proposals set out in "The Future of Development Plans" (Cm. 569) will ensure that these plans can, where appropriate, be incorporated into the new district development plans which all authorities will be required to prepare.
56. Mr. Lord : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to improve the quality of the sea water around the beaches of the United Kingdom ; and if he will make a statement.
In 1988, a total of 6 per cent. of bathing waters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland met the mandatory coliform bacteria standards of the EC bathing water directive. I have asked water authorities to draw up programmes with the aim of bringing the remaining waters up to these standards by the mid-1990s.
Mr. Allen McKay : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is now in a position to provide the information referred to in his answer of 22 March, Official Report, column 635 relating to planning decisions ; and if he will make a statement.
61. Mr. Nicholas Baker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many homes he estimates could be built on the 49,900 acres of land currently vacant, unused and surplus to requirements and owned by local authorities ; and what progress he is making in putting such vacant land to good use.
Mr. Trippier : It is not possible to estimate how many homes could in practice be built on such land. At 31 May 1989 approximately 14, 700 acres of local authority land on the land register had a planning indication for residential use. It is for authorities to dispose of surplus land and make effective use of what they retain. By 31 May 1989 some 17,000 acres of local authority land had been removed from the register, mainly disposed of or brought into use. My right hon. Friend's powers to direct disposals will continue to be used where appropriate. By 31 May use of these powers had been initiated in respect of some 1,500 acres of local authority land.
Column 492for local authorities who have difficulties in meeting their housing defects obligations ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Trippier : Local authorities are normally expected to be able to meet their housing defects obligations from within their general housing programme resources, but to help authorities with particular difficulties with designated defective properties, we distributed an extra £15 million of resources this year.
Mr. Moynihan : The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) has written to my right hon. Friend, and I have replied. The director of administration, Barnsley metropolitan borough council, has also written to the Department and a reply has been sent.
72. Mr. Grylls : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next hopes to meet the chairman of the London Docklands development corporation to discuss the London City airport site and its surrounds.
Mr. Ridley : The European Community's Environment Council, which is usually attended by my noble Friend the Minister for Housing, Environment and Countryside, will next meet on 19 September. It will be for the French presidency to decide the agenda.
75. Mr. Vaz : To ask the Scretary of State for the Environment if he has received any representations concerning the accumulation of methane in the Basthby Thorpe area landfill site ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Howard : At Southend-on-Sea, the Anglian water authority recently brought into use an extension to an existing outfall at a cost of £5 million. While this has brought about significant improvements in water quality,
Column 493it is clear that further measures are needed. In response to a request from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Anglian water authority is developing proposals for satisfactory long-term arrangements for sewage disposal at Southend.
However, as a temporary measure, the water authority is disinfecting sewage with peracetic acid prior to discharge through the outfall. This has enabled the identified bathing waters at Thorpe bay and Westcliff bay consistently to meet the bathing water directive's mandatory coliform standards so far during the 1989 bathing season.
East beach, Shoeburyness, which was recently identified as a bathing water under the EC bathing water directive, already meets those mandatory standards.
79. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice his Department is giving to the organisation of the Henley regatta to ensure that both the spirit and the letter of the Gleneagles agreement are observed at this year's regatta.
Mr. Moynihan : I have not discussed the Gleneagles agreement formally with the newly-appointed chairman of the Sports Council. As chairman of the council, Mr. Yarranton issued a statement expressing his support for the agreement on 12 June.
82. Mr. Madel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is considering a more important role for district health authorities in the consultative process of planning proposals at district council level in his forthcoming planning Bill ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Howard : The White Paper "The Future of Development Plans" (Cm. 569) set out the Government's proposals for reform of the development plan system. Under the new arrangements district planning authorities will, when preparing their draft plans, be required to consult any statutory bodies likely to be affected. There will continue to be provision, as there is now, for local public inquiries to be held by an inspector appointed by my right hon. Friend to hear objections to deposited plans. It will be up to district health authorities to make appropriate use of those procedures.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The first statutory marine nature reserve around Lundy island was established on 21 November 1986. The Nature Conservancy Council has formally submitted proposals for a second reserve at Skomer island --Marloes peninsular--to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. A decision is awaited from the South Wales sea fisheries committee on a proposed byelaw controlling fishing before further progress can be made.
The NCC published a consultation paper on Menai Straits in September 1988 and is considering the 175 responses it has received.
84. Mr. Lofthouse : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, what advice and help with grants for repairs and so on, his Department is giving to people on low incomes to conserve energy in their homes ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Trippier : The homes insulation scheme, administered by housing authorities and funded by my Department, provides 90 per cent. grant for loft insulation in qualifying dwellings whose householders are recipients of income support, family credit or housing benefit. A departmental booklet for scheme applicants, distributed to all authorities, includes detailed guidance to those who wish to carry out the work themselves. Discretionary aid for energy conservation measures may also be available via home improvement grants, usually as part of a wider package of improvements. Advice to householders is contained in the Department's housing booklet No. 14.
85. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what would be the effect of a rating revaluation on the level of rates payable on a typical terraced house with a current rateable value of £40 in the area covered by Kirklees council ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gummer : Under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 domestic rates are to be replaced from 1 April 1990 by the community charge. No revaluation of domestic rateable values is therefore to be made. Such a revaluation would in any event now be very difficult to undertake because of lack of evidence of market rents for domestic property.
86. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in response to his proposed revised modifications to the first alteration to the Surrey structure plan ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Howard : The Secretary of State has so far received three responses to the proposed revised modification which was formally advertised by the county council on 18 May. Six weeks are allowed for representations, the closing date for which will be 10 July.
Column 495The Secretary of State will then complete his consideration of the proposed revised modification, and his approval of the first alteration to the Surrey structure plan will follow as soon as possible afterwards.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : English Heritage is responsible for managing Stonehenge on behalf of my right hon. Friend. As my hon. Friend knows, it has plans for a new visitor centre and other major improvements in the way Stonehenge is presented to the public. Critical to the success of these plans is the choice of access route to the visitor centre. This has taken time to resolve because of the conflicting interests of adjoining landowners, and questions of archaeology and military security. However, discussions are taking place, and I hope that the matter will be resolved soon.
90. Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take further steps to discourage development outside the conurbations and provide additional incentives to secure reclamation of derelict land within them.
Mr. Trippier : The Government are already firmly committed to the preservation of the countryside and the maximum use of urban land for new development. Under the derelict land grant, priority is given to reclaiming derelict sites in urban areas and city grant and urban programme grants are also available to reclaim derelict land and facilitate development. In addition, the 10 urban development corporations now established in England are making a significant impact on the derelict land in their areas.
Nevertheless, the latest household projections make it clear that some land for housing will continue to be needed in the foreseeable future on new sites outside urban areas. Such sites will have to be identified with an eye to all material planning considerations.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he is taking to prevent building development by housing associations, local councils and other public bodies on school and other playing fields ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chope : Local planning authorities are responsible for determining development proposals in the first instance. As I indicated in reply to the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) on 24 May, we have urged authorities to take account of the wider needs of the community and to consult local sports and recreational interests when considering proposals for the development of recreational land.
Column 496regarding the role and function of waste disposal authorities, and what was the nature of their representations.