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Mr. Curry : The objectives of the single regeneration budget include the improvement of housing through physical improvements, greater choice and better management and maintenance. The budget will support this objective through meeting continuing commitments on housing-related programmes which have been combined in the Budget. These programmes include estate action, which is implemented by local authorities. The budget may also support housing measures which local authorities and their partners put forward for support in 1995-96 and later years through the current competitive bidding round for uncommitted budget resources.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what factors and charges in the 1991 index of local conditions are relevant to the single regeneration budget ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : The relevance of the index of local conditions to the single regeneration budget is set out in paragraph 35 of the bidding guidance for the budget, issued on 14 April 1994, copies of which are in the Library of the House.
Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the total amount of urban and regeneration expenditure, excluding urban programme, listed for each separate urban programme area for each year since 1980-81 at (a) cash prices and (b) current prices.
Mr. Curry : Information in the form requested for all programmes now combined in the single regeneration budget could be provided only at disproportionate cost as, for most of these programmes, it has not been the practice to collect information on a local authority district basis.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many of the outline bids at each regional office in respect of the single regeneration budget are now being worked up to be considered at the next stage of the process ; and if he will make a statement on the progress to date.
Mr. Curry : It is for individual bidders to decide whether to work up bids to be submitted by 7 September. But, on the basis of existing information, about half of those who have expressed an interest in bidding are expected to work up their outline proposals for submission to the Government offices for the regions.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what provision has been made and what representations he has received for the housing implications of the care in the community programme for local authorities ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : My Department has held a number of meetings with the local authority associations to discuss housing issues arising from the implementation of community care policies. Community care does not in itself create any new category of entitlement to housing, and we expect its impact on housing demand to be gradual and progressive. It is for local authorities to consider the resource implications of community care and to prepare housing strategies to meet housing needs in their areas.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on the subject of the future of water charges (a) in relation to meters, (b) using the council tax banding system and (c) exemptions for churches and other religious buildings ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : Representations are received by the Department from time to time about alternative methods of charging for water, including the use of meters and council tax valuation bands. No representations have been received about exempting churches and other religious buildings from water charges. It is for each water company to determine the basis for charging in its area.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many appeals have been received regarding council tax bands ; how many succeeded ; how many have failed ; and how many were outstanding at the latest date for which he has information ;
(2) what information he has on the success or failure rate of appeals against council tax banding to the latest date for which figures are available, both in number and percentage terms.
Column 463of dwellings in England. 412,185 had been settled, of which some 330,000--36 per cent.--resulted in a change of banding, leaving 506,840 outstanding.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will set out the reasons for normally allowing costs to be awarded against the applicant in planning applications rejected by both the local planning authority and also at appeal but not usually in cases where a planning application involves green belt land where the application is called in ; and what plans he has to change this policy.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the importance to Her Majesty's Government's policy of sustainable development of protecting green belt land from further development.
Mr. Curry : Paragraph 2.10 of the draft revision of the proposed new planning policy guidance note 2 on green belts, which was issued for public consultation on 21 February, proposes that when drawing green belt boundaries in development plans local planning authorities should take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development. There is a presumption against inappropriate development within a green belt.
We are analysing the responses made to the PPG2 consultation document.
Mr. Curry : The Secretary of State carries out his planning functions relating to the control of development in green belts with assistance from his planning policy division, Government offices in the regions, and the planning inspectorate.
Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what duty exists for local authorities to ensure that the boundaries of any neighbourhood council of committees which they may constitute, as part of a programme of devolving their powers to localities and communities, are determined fairly and impartially.
Mr. Curry : It is for the individual local authorities to decide the boundaries of any neighbourhood council or committee which they establish. But the membership of any committee or sub-committee of a local authority to which the authority delegates its powers must, under the provisions of section 15 of the Housing and Local Government Act 1989, reflect the overall political balance of the authority.
Also, all councillors must sign a declaration of acceptance of office which includes an undertaking that they will be guided by the national code of local government conduct in the performance of their duties as councillors. Among other things, the code states that a councillors overriding duty is to the whole local community and that they have a special duty to their constituents including those who did not vote for them.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to introduce new incentives to first-time buyers to alleviate problems in this section of the market ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : First-time buyers and other home purchasers will continue to benefit from the range of Government policies which have brought about substantial falls in interest rates and have made home ownership more affordable than for many years.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy regarding the need to disclose investment plans of applicants in the planning process to ensure the viability of the scheme under consideration.
Mr. Curry : The Government do not have a policy regarding the investment plans of planning applicants. Planning applications should be considered only on their land-use planning merits. The viability of a proposed scheme would be a commercial decision for the developer.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps his inspectors take at public inquiries to ensure that time and resources are not wasted by the unpreparedness of witnesses ; and what steps are taken to recover costs where such unpreparedness results in important information being unavailable to the inquiry.
Mr. Curry : Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Planning Inspectorate executive agency under its chief executive and chief planning inspector, Mr. H. Stephen Crow. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given. Letter from H. S. Crow to Mr. Peter Ainsworth, dated 20 July 1994 :
The Secretary of State for the Environment has asked me to reply to your Question about steps taken by inspectors to ensure that time is not wasted at public inquiries by the unpreparedness of witnesses ; and what steps are taken to recover costs where such unpreparedness results in important information being unavailable to the inquiry. Depending on whether the decision on the case is to be taken by the Secretary of State or the Inspector, the procedure at planning inquiries is governed by The Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 or The Town and Country Planning (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1992 [Statutory Instruments 1992 Nos. 2038 and 2039 respectively]. Both sets of Rules require proofs of evidence and summaries to be submitted not later than three weeks before the date fixed for the inquiry or by a date programmed by the Inspector. The aim is to make the inquiry process as efficient and effective as possible, whilst impairing neither the fairness nor the impartiality of the proceedings, nor the ability of participants to make representations which are relevant to the decision (paragraphs 5-8 of DoE Circular 24/92).
If a person who proposes to give evidence by reading a proof of evidence has not submitted that proof in advance, the Inspector at the inquiry has to consider, in the light of any submissions by other parties, what course of action would be in the public interest. Options could include having the witness read out the full proof, adjourning the inquiry to allow everyone to study the proof, and re-programming the witness to appear later. It is for the Inspector alone to decide what course to take.
Whether or not he or she has submitted a proof of evidence, a witness is sometimes unable to answer a question during
Column 465cross-examination. If the information is important, the Inspector may ask the witness to obtain it and return to answer the question later. Meanwhile the inquiry will continue. Alternatively the Inspector may adjourn the inquiry whilst the witness obtains the information.
The policy on the award of costs incurred in planning inquiries is set out in DoE Circular 8/93. Before an award of costs is made, three conditions will normally need to be met (paragraph 6 of Annex 1 of the Appendix to Circular 8/93).
Briefly these are :
(1) one of the parties has sought an award at the inquiry ; (2) the party against whom costs are sought has behaved unreasonably ; and
(3) this unreasonable conduct has caused the party seeking costs to incur expense unnecessarily.
Therefore, at the inquiry an application for an award of costs may be made to the Inspector if a party considers that the unpreparedness of a witness has amounted to unreasonable behaviour and that such conduct has caused unnecessary expense. There is no other sanction (paragraph 9 of Circular 24/92). The Inspector will hear submissions from both parties. The decision on the award of costs will not normally be issued until the decision on the merits of the case has been issued.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy not to consider any further proposed developments at Redhill aerodrome for a designated period of years if the current planning application fails.
Mr. Curry : No. It will remain the case that any application for development at the aerodrome will need to be considered on its merits, having regard to the development plan, so far as it is material to the application, and any other material considerations.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received from (i) commercial interests and (ii) representatives of local communities, regarding the proposal to develop an international airport at Redhill.
Mr. Curry : None. It is understood that representations have been made to the inspector following the close of the public inquiry. We will consider what action is necessary on such post-inquiry representations when the inspector has submitted his report, and if any are considered to be material to the decision, they will be made available to principal parties for comment before a final decision is taken.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to make an announcement about the future of the mandatory grants system ; what further arrangements he plans to make for consultation following that announcement ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the numbers of persons and the percentage of those who were or are in (a) part-time and (b) full-time employment who had no time-limiter contract in (a) 1984 and (b) 1994 respectively.
Year |Part-time |Percentage|Full-time |Percentage ------------------------------------------------------------------ 1984 |217 |3.7 |5,857 |96.3 1994 |399 |6.3 |6,002 |93.8
Mr. Gale : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he intends to take, in the light of the findings of his Department's inquiries, to ensure that correct contracting and accountancy practices are implemented by Canterbury city council's works and services department.
Mr. Curry : Canterbury city council has been investigating the accounts and operation of its works and services department, with the involvement of the external auditor and the police. My right hon. Friend has requested and recently received a report from the authority. He is now considering whether statutory action under the compulsory competitive tendering legislation is called for. I shall write to the hon. Member when that decision is taken.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what he now forecasts the total of new starts to be as a percentage of the construction industry's work load for each of the next three years.
Mr. Curry : Aviation policy is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Decisions on any proposal for airport development would involve a wide range of considerations, including, where relevant, regeneration benefits.
Mr. Atkins : My noble Friend Lord Strathclyde had such discussions with Dr. Murerwa, the Zimbabwean Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, when he visited the country in 1992. Officials of my Department have had frequent contacts with their colleagues in Zimbabwe on these matters, notably in Harare during the United Kingdom-led EC fact-finding mission on the African elephant issue in late 1992 and last year in Nairobi at the United Nations Environment Programme rhino conservation conference.
Mr. Atkins : The estimated figures for 1993 indicate that the total number of white rhino in Africa is 5,821. This represents an increase of over 1,000 since 1990. The rise is evident only in South Africa which holds 5,300 of the species.
Mr. Wolfson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are his intentions regarding market franchise rights ; and if he will consult all affected parties before any final decisions are taken on this issue.
Mr. Curry : We have now obtained the views of all the main interested parties on how they see the future of market franchises. We are now carefully considering these views, and once we have reached our conclusions we shall announce how we intend to take matters forward.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many licences have been issued to cull Canada geese in the last two years ; to whom they were issued ; and how many geese were killed.
Mr. Atkins : Some 77 licences were issued by this Department and by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to cull Canada geese in 1992. The corresponding figure for 1993 was 71. The number of birds killed were 1,175 and 1,310 respectively. Information that would identify the applicant for a licence is normally regarded as confidential.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on what grounds he has issued licences to cull Canada geese ; and if he will give details of the methods of control recommended by his Department.
It is a matter for applicants for licences to select control methods that are not prohibited by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This week we published a leaflet prepared by my Department, on advice from its Canada goose working group, which gives guidance on legal methods for controlling the species, including shooting, egg pricking and a range of non-lethal scaring and habitat management techniques.
Mr. Michael Spicer : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will discuss with the chairman of Ofwat the hosepipe ban on parts of Worcestershire with a view to ensuring that Severn-Trent Water Authority plan for and invest in capacity which prevents a similar occurrence in the future.
Mr. Atkins : The Director General of Water Services, the head of the Office of Water Services, has already established reference points for levels of service, including the frequency of hosepipe bans, on which water undertakers must report annually. This information is published and feeds into the investment planning of the undertakers, the Director General's consequent determinations on water pricing and his reviews of their performance.
Mr. McNamara : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many tenants of the North Hull housing action trust from 1 Avenue, Greenwood avenue and South close have chosen to return to council tenancies ; what are the reasons for the delay in returning tenancies to the council ; and when he will give his consent for the transfer of tenancies to the council.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many overseas visits he and each of his Ministers have made between 1 January and 30 June ; during how many he, or each of his Ministers, participated in fund raising activities for the Conservative party ; and if he will name the Ministers and the countries in which these activities took place.
Mr. Gummer : Between 1 January and 30 June 1994, Ministers in my Department have made 21 overseas visits in their official capacity. Fund- raising activities for the Conservative party are not part of our official duties.
Mr. Curry : The Building Research Establishment has a substantial on -going programme of research in this area and has taken cognisance of the "Crumbling Heritage" report. The programme includes work on stone durability, selection, cleaning and repair. The Building Research Establishment operates a heritage support service which provides advice on request.
Mr. Atkins : The drinking water inspectorate published its fourth annual report today. Once again, it shows that drinking water in England and Wales is of a very high quality. In 1993, 98.9 per cent. of the 3.5 million tests carried out by water companies on drinking water met the relevant standard, compared with 98.7 per cent. in 1992.
The report provides a detailed picture of water quality in England and Wales which has been tested against the stringent criteria of the water quality regulations which incorporate the limits in the EC drinking water directive.
The inspectorate is also publishing a leaflet called "How Good is our Drinking Water?", which summarises the main points of the report.
Column 469Copies of the report and leaflet have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Spring : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to be able to announce the publication of the report from the working group on peat extraction and related matters, which his Department set up in 1992.
Mr. Curry : The report from the working group will be published during the first part of next month. It will be accompanied by a draft, for consultation, of a minerals planning guidance note on peat relating to England. Copies of the documents will be placed in the Library of both Houses.
Mr. Curry : In accordance with the respective share sale agreements, the consideration for each business has been adjusted to reflect the difference between the net asset value of the business estimated prior to completion, and the actual net asset value as determined after completion.
I can now advise that the agreed consideration adjustments made by PSA Services to the purchasers are as follows :
Business |Purchaser |£ ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- BM Scotland |Serco |725,179 Noreast BM |John Mowlem |2,801,391 |Construction plc BM Manchester |W. S. Atkins |3,607,697 |Building and Property BM South East |Management Services Ltd.|1,979,677 BM South and West |(Amec-Pell Frischmann |3,873,662 |Consortium)
Mr. Curry : We have published new planning guidance for coal today. The guidance replaced the guidance in MPG3, published in 1988, and the interim planning guidance announced by the then Secretary of State on 25 March 1993.
The guidance seeks to provide a policy framework for mineral planning authorities and the industry to ensure that the extraction of coal and disposal of colliery spoil can take place in accordance with the full and proper protection of the environment and the principles of sustainable development. The Government believe that this can best be done through a clear and consistent planning approach at the local level within a broad national policy framework.
The best way of striking the balance between the economic importance of this indigenous energy resource
Column 470and the protection of the environment is through the careful consideration of individual applications within the framework of the development plan led system.
The guidance provides a stronger environmental framework than the existing guidance published in 1988. But I am confident that it will enable the industry to develop the mineral resource in a way that has proper regard to local concerns and is fully compatible with economic growth, the protection of the environment and the principles of sustainable development.
Mr. Atkins : I am pleased to announce the results of the survey we commissioned recently from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology to provide an up-to-date picture of changes in the numbers of hedgerows in the countryside of England and Wales. By using comparable methodology to countryside survey 90, this most recent study enables a comparison between changes recorded during the period 1984-90 with those during the period 1990-93.
The results show that the annual rate of hedgerow removal has declined from 9,500 km per year in 1984-90, to 3,600 km per year during 1990-93. Expressed as a percentage of existing hedgerow stock this represents a halving of the rate at which hedges are being grubbed up, from 1.7 per cent. to 0.8 per cent. per year. Furthermore, the annual gains from hedge planting have more than doubled from 1, 900 km per year during 1984-90, to 4,400 km per year during 1990-93. The rate of removal is now outweighed by the rate of new planting. The downward trend in hedgerow removal is welcome, and is consistent with the change in agricultural policies in recent years towards greater emphasis on care of the countryside. Schemes such as environmentally sensitive areas introduced in 1987 and countryside stewardship launched in 1991, have encouraged the conservation of hedgerows.
While these results provide good evidence that widespread removal in the countryside is not the problem it was, nevertheless some 3,600 km of hedgerow on average are being removed annually. We remain committed to protecting hedges of key importance, and we are therefore considering carefully how to focus protection on the highly valuable hedges, for which no amount of replanting can substitute--for example, an ancient parish boundary hedge.
The survey reveals that changes in hedgerow stocks have also occurred as a result of changes in management. 22,500 km per year became classified as relict hedges during 1990-93, as compared with 7,400 km per year during 1984-90. Such changes occurred where hedges ceased to be cut and managed as hedges and grow into lines of bushes or trees. This trend was offset in part by restoration of relict hedges which increased from 2.400 km per year, to 5,700 km per year. For the future, the hedgerow incentive scheme, which was launched in England in 1992, and the hedgerow restoration scheme in Wales, should increasingly work with the farm and conservation grant scheme and the environmentally sensitive areas scheme to encourage retention in active management of hedgerows of particular historic, wildlife or landscape value.