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Green Belt

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list those sites designated as green belt for which planning permission has been granted since May 1997. [143906]

Ms Beverley Hughes: This information is not held centrally.

8 Jan 2001 : Column: 377W

Shared Ownership Sales

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proportion of shared ownership sales in (a) London and (b) England were to (i) existing local authority registered social landlord tenants, (ii) people in housing priority groups and (iii) others. [144286]

Mr. Mullin: The available information is as follows:

Proportion of shared ownership sales by category of purchaser
1999 to 2000 Percentage

Category of purchaserLondonEngland
Existing LA/RSL tenants1516
Others on a local authority waiting list4634
Others not on a local authority waiting list3950


Housing Corporation/DETR CORE Sales Logs

All applicants for shared ownership must be in housing need and unable to afford to buy a suitable home in any other way.

Improvement Grants

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what his policy is on the exclusion of Newcastle upon Tyne, Central constituency from the possibility of receiving improvement grants in 2001-02; what the underspend was on funds for improvement grants in Newcastle upon Tyne in the three preceding years; and if he gave permission for such funds to be reapplied to other purposes. [143876]

Mr. Mullin: It is for each local authority to decide on the provision of home improvement grants within the broad expenditure guidelines set by my Department, and to target the grants where it sees fit. No specific exclusions have been placed on Newcastle or on any other authority, and any decision not to give grants in the Newcastle upon Tyne, Central constituency will have been taken by the authority itself.

Newcastle city council made use of the full amount of Government support for private sector housing renewal, which is spent mainly on grants for home improvement, in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. Had the council spent less than its allocation during these years, it would not have been able to reapply the funds to other purposes, as there was separate ring-fenced support for the grants. That ring fence no longer exists, and authorities are free to use the resources within their overall housing capital allocation for a range of housing purposes, including on home improvement grants.

North Yorkshire County Council

Mr. Curry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations his Department has received on his Guidance Notes on Capitalisation of Local Authority Pension Fund Contributions; and if he will treat North Yorkshire county council's case for the capitalisation of £30 million of contributions as an exception within his discretion. [144431]

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Ms Armstrong: In the formal consultation on this document, 67 responses were received. All respondents welcomed the proposal to allow local authorities to pay capital receipts into their pension funds. We have, however, always made clear that the scheme is meant to help authorities whose pension fund liabilities are significantly higher than average. On the information currently available, it appears that North Yorkshire county council does not pass this test and there seem to be no grounds for exceptional treatment.

Mr. Curry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he will take to ease the burden on North Yorkshire county council of the extra costs as a result of the apportionment of debt to the Public Works Loan Board between the county council and York city council and the early repayment by York. [144430]

Ms Armstrong: The arrangements under which North Yorkshire county council have been managing debt on behalf of the City of York council are set out in legislation. My Department has no power to intervene.


Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will place in the Library a copy of his reply to the letter to him of 9 December from Mr. Charles Turnock on the problems of the railway industry. [144139]

Mr. Hill: I am unable to provide this information as correspondence between the Department and its correspondents is treated in confidence unless the originator chooses to make such issues public.

Rail and Underground (Service Disruption)

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will ensure that there is no disruption to rail and underground services to and from central London on 18 March 2001 due to political action seeking to prevent public protest. [144443]

Mr. Hill: This Government support the right of peaceful protest. The policing of events such as the march planned for 18 March 2001 is a matter for the relevant chief officers of police.

Water Companies

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will make a statement on the new corporate structure proposed by Glas Cymru for the Welsh Water company Dwr Cymru; [144299]

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Mr. Mullin: The Government's prime interest is to ensure that any reorganisation in the water industry will bring direct and long-lasting benefits to customers, and that companies can continue to comply with their environmental and public health obligations, including the protection of drinking water quality.

The Director General of Water Services issued a consultation paper on the issues raised by Glas Cymru's proposals on 10 November 2000. The paper states that Dwr Cymru must remain capable of meeting all its statutory and licence obligations, including its responsibility for drinking water quality and environmental standards. The consultation period closed on 18 December 2000. The First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales has set out his views on the proposals in a response to the director general. I understand that the director intends to make a statement on the outcome of this consultation shortly.

As explained in the consultation paper that accompanied the draft Water Bill, the Government will continue to work with the industry regulators and all other interested parties so that any further restructuring proposals brought forward by the industry have been fully examined to ensure that customer interests, drinking water quality and the environment are fully protected and that the long-term implications for the future of the industry have been fully addressed. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment met the director general on 29 November and discussed, among other issues, water industry restructuring.

We are still examining the options for extending competition in the water industry, taking into account recent developments such as restructuring proposals. As soon as we are in a position to do so we will make a statement of our conclusions.

Ticketing Arrangements

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the train operating companies and London Underground regarding further integration of commuter services and ticketing arrangements in London and the south-east; and if he will make a statement. [144525]

Mr. Hill: The shadow Strategic Rail Authority has been working jointly with Transport for London, South West Trains, Connex and Thameslink to develop inner-suburban national rail services into a 'South London Metro'. This will involve better integration of the rail services south of the Thames in the Greater London area and simplification of fares with possible options for either complete or partial interavailability between buses, Underground, Tramlink and National Rail.


Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what statutory provisions apply to allotment holders; what support and advice his Department provides; and if he will make a statement. [144490]

8 Jan 2001 : Column: 380W

Ms Beverley Hughes: The main provisions that apply to holders of statutory allotments are contained in the Allotments Act 1922 in respect of security of tenure for allotment holders; the Allotments Act 1925 in respect of the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of allotments; and the Allotments Act 1950 in respect of arrangements for collecting rent and the termination of tenancies.

The Government will shortly issue for consultation a revised draft of planning policy guidance note 17 on sports and recreation. The guidance will provide advice to local planning authorities on assessing local needs for open spaces including allotments, and for encouraging new provision where there are deficiencies. My Department is supporting research commissioned by the Local Government Association to prepare and disseminate good practice guidance on the management of allotments. My Department is also preparing a general guide for allotment holders.

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