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Sustainable Development

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he has issued to local planning authorities on sustainable development; and if he will make a statement. [145999]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Sustainable development is the heart of the planning system. Relevant guidance is given to local planning authorities in a number of planning policy guidance notes including PPG1: "General Policy and Principles" (paras 4-7), PPG3: "Housing" (see paragraph 1) and PPG12: "Development Plans" (Chapter 4). Practical advice on how to incorporate sustainable development principles into development plan preparation was given in "Planning for Sustainable Development: towards better practice" (ISBN 0-11-753406-4). Regional Planning Guidance is subject to sustainability appraisal and guidance was issued in October 2000 on good practice in the preparation of such appraisals (ISBN 0-11-753568-0). We shall shortly be re-consulting on a revision to the consultation draft of PPG25: "Development and Flood Risk which emphasises sustainable solutions to managing risk from flooding".

Air Quality (Yeovil)

Paddy Ashdown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on air quality within the Yeovil constituency. [144609]

Mr. Meacher: The Yeovil constituency is covered by South Somerset District Council, which is reviewing and assessing the current, and likely future, air quality in its area, as required under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995.

South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council, submitted a preliminary air quality review and assessment report to my Department in February 1999. South Somerset produced its own further report in June 2000 and the Council is currently working on its final review and assessment report, but has regrettably missed the deadline of end December 2000. My officials will be meeting with representatives from South Somerset later this month to discuss their progress so far and to agree a formal timetable for submitting the final stages of the Council's review and assessment work.

South Somerset does not currently anticipate any exceedences of the national air quality objectives in respect of benzene; 1,3-butadiene; carbon monoxide; lead; sulphur dioxide; and particles (PM 1 0 ) in its area. None of

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the industrial processes in and around Yeovil constituency has been identified as a major source of concern. South Somerset has, however, indicated within its reports that an area of Yeovil (near the major roads A30 and A37) has been identified as having potentially significant levels of nitrogen oxides. This is being investigated further, in order to assess whether or not an air quality management area needs to be declared in the vicinity of these major roads.

There is no automatic monitoring site on our national network within the Yeovil constituency. A mobile laboratory has been used for short periods by South Somerset District Council to monitor NO 2 and PM 1 0 > levels in Yeovil, and some basic monitoring of NO 2 has also been carried out with diffusion tubes. South Somerset has recently secured a Supplementary Credit Approval of £39k from my Department for a new continuous monitor which I understand will be situated in the grounds of Yeovil District Hospital near the A37, A30 hospital roundabout, which is believed to be the worst pollution hotspot in Yeovil. The monitor will be measuring NO 2 and PM 1 0 concentrations.

Planning Applications

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many planning applications he has called in each of the last five years on which a tribunal has sat. [146080]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The number of planning applications called in each year for the last five years are:

YearNumber
1995-96144
1996-97139
1997-98147
1997-98138
1999-2000136

All called in planning applications are considered by a Planning Inspector who, since the Franks Report, has traditionally been regarded as a one-person tribunal.

MOX Plant (Sellafield)

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce his decision regarding the authorisation of the mixed-oxide fuel plant at Sellafield. [146043]

Mr. Meacher: A decision regarding the authorisation of the plant will only be announced when the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Health have considered all the relevant information, including the revised economic case received in my Department on 5 January.

Helicopters

Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many helicopters have been ditched in waters surrounding the United Kingdom in the last three years; where the ditchings occurred; how many (a) lives were lost and (b) helicopters were recovered; and if he will make a statement. [144503]

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Mr. Mullin: The Civil Aviation Authority's records show that only one civil helicopter has ditched into the waters surrounding the United Kingdom in the last three years. This incident occurred near Lyme Regis in foggy conditions. The helicopter was destroyed but both occupants were rescued.

During the same period the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) has records of two military helicopters ditching in UK waters, one in the North Sea off the Norfolk Coast and the other in the area of the Kyle of Lochalsh. There were no fatalities in either case. It is believed that both helicopters were at least in part recovered, although DARA do not hold records of the recovery operations themselves.

Park Homes Working Party

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what legislative and regulatory proposals have resulted from the work of the Park Homes Working Party; and if he will make a statement. [146263]

Mr. Mullin: The recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party covered a broad range of issues and included proposals for changes to the legislation applying to park homes. We have consulted on, and are considering, the Working Party's recommendations.

Heathrow

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what health impact assessment (a) has been carried out and (b) will be carried out for those living by Heathrow Airport. [145948]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The proposed fifth terminal at Heathrow was the subject of a Public Inquiry which closed in March 1999 with the report of the independent Inquiry Inspector, Roy Vandermeer QC, being delivered on 20 December 2000. During the Inquiry the Inspector heard and received evidence on a wide range of issues including the potential impact on health.

Heritage Notification Arrangements

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress he has made in reviewing the current heritage notification arrangements in London. [146447]

Mr. Raynsford: Following a consultation exercise last year, we are publishing today a joint circular with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport setting out new arrangements to simplify the handling of listed building consent applications in London. The new arrangements will reduce significantly the number of applications which will need to be notified to English Heritage and to the Government Office for London, to reflect the growing experience of the London boroughs in these matters. This will enable decisions to be issued more quickly.

The circular also gives guidance on an Order transferring to English Heritage certain responsibilities from the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

18 Jan 2001 : Column: 298W

Woodland

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what external advice he is taking in respect of his plans to extend the level of woodland cover in England. [145439]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

The Forestry Strategy for England sets out our priorities for creating new woodlands. Our key target areas are the creation of larger woodlands, where they can bring greater benefits; the creation of woodlands in the urban fringe; the restoration of former industrial land; and reversing the fragmentation of ancient woodland. I chair the England Forestry Forum which I set up to help implement the strategy. The forum is made up of a wide range of bodies who have a significant interest in forestry in England and advise me on how best to deliver the aims of the strategy.

DEFENCE

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if depleted uranium has been a component of munitions used on (a) Salisbury Plain training area, (b) Porton Down, (c) Lulworth ranges and (b) Shoeburyness. [145945]

Mr. Spellar: No munitions containing Depleted Uranium (DU) have ever been fired on Salisbury Plain Training Area, Porton Down or Lulworth Ranges. In respect to Foulness, which is now part of the DERA Shoeburyness site, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 15 January 2001, Official Report, columns 42-43W, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham).

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the purpose was of the testing of depleted uranium shells at Dundrennan, Kirkudbrightshire, in 1999-2000. [145927]

Mr. Spellar: The only ammunition with depleted uranium tested at Dundrennan, Kirkudbrightshire, in 1999-2000 was the 120mm anti-armour round Challenger Armament 3 (CHARM 3) for Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. The test-firing was part of the proofing regime for production rounds which will be complete by September 2001.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many depleted uranium shells were fired at his Department's base at Dundrennan, Kirkcudbrightshire in 1999-2000; and how many have so far been fired in the current year. [145928]

Mr. Spellar: During the calendar years 1999 and 2000, a total of 411 depleted uranium shells were fired at the Army's Dundrennan range. No rounds have been fired, so far, during the current year.

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the risk assessments undertaken by his Department affecting the environment and human life arising from the use of depleted uranium, including dates of such assessments, in the last 10 years. [145922]

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Mr. Spellar: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if ordnance containing depleted uranium has been fired on the Otterburn Ranges; and if he will make a statement. [145934]

Mr. Spellar: No ordnance containing depleted uranium has ever been fired on the Otterburn Ranges.


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