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Clifton Marsh Tip

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what reports he has received from the Environment Agency on breaches of licence conditions at Clifton Marsh tip, Lancashire, by BNFL in connection with their disposal of any forms of radioactive waste. [146710]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 22 January 2001]: Following concerns raised in an article published in The Guardian newspaper on 16 January 2001, the Environment Agency has carried out an initial investigation into claims that depleted uranium from BNFL's Springfields site is being deposited at Clifton Marsh landfill in a dangerous manner. As a result of preliminary investigations at both the Clifton Marsh site and the Springfields site, the agency has found nothing to suggest that radioactive materials have been deposited at the site above the limits permitted in the site's authorisation under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

The authorisation makes provision for the disposal of very low levels of solid radioactive waste at the landfill. This type of waste is subject to regular random checks by the site operators, Lancashire Waste Services, and the results of these checks are available to the agency for examination at any time. The agency is continuing to

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investigate the claims made in the recent news articles, and any further information will be made available at the earliest opportunity.

British Railways Board Records Centre

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of arrangements for the closure of the British Railways Board Records Centre as regards access to documents required for the running of the railways; and if he will make a statement. [151666]

Mr. Hill: The great majority of the British Railways Board's (BRB's) responsibilities have been assumed by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) as a consequence of the Transport Act 2000. The management of the BRB records is, therefore, a matter for the SRA. With the ending of the BRB's operational responsibilities, a decision was made in 1997 to rationalise the archive and to retain only those documents necessary to meet the on-going requirements of the board to deal with its continuing legal liabilities. Under an appraisal process agreed by the Public Record Office (PRO) and the Railway Heritage Committee, records of historical importance are being deposited with the PRO or County Record Offices. Railtrack (and where appropriate any other successor body) are being advised of those records in which they may have an interest for the on-going running of the railway and can make appropriate arrangements for access.


Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the compliance of London boroughs with measures proposed by his Department in design manuals to assist in achieving high standards of cycling safety in London. [152350]

Mr. Hill: None. The Secretary of State issues guidance on the design of facilities for cyclists mainly through Traffic Advisory Leaflets and Local Transport Notes. In London, the London Cycle Network (LCN) has its own design manual. The LCN also has its own audit arrangements governing the safety of schemes. Responsibility for the LCN has now transferred to the Mayor.


Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the Government programmes which allow for the use of section 106 contributions as matching finance; and if he will make a statement. [152492]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as substituted by section 12 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, enables local authorities and developers to enter into a planning obligation. This can comprise both negotiated planning agreements and unilateral undertakings by a developer. Current Government policy on the use of planning obligations is set out in Circular 1/97. This sets out a tightly defined set of tests which apply to the use of planning obligations. Planning obligations should be necessary; relevant to planning; directly related to the

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proposed development; fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development; and reasonable in all other respects.

Planning obligations are not designed to be used as a means of securing matching finance for Government programmes. They are designed to remedy genuine planning problems and to enhance the quality of development. They should only be sought where they are necessary to make a planning proposal acceptable in land-use planning terms.

We intend to issue shortly a consultation paper with proposals for improving the current arrangements for planning obligations.


Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will publish the criteria he will use to determine which housing authorities are banded as 'excellent' for the purpose of qualifying for arm's length housing companies. [152494]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The proposed required for an excellent rating is one of a number of criteria which authorities working to qualify for additional resources must achieve in addition to setting up arm's length management arrangements. The assessment of the quality of the services will be undertaken by the Audit Commission's Housing Inspectorate as part of their best value duties. I understand that the Commission will shortly consider issuing a consultation paper on a framework for excellence in housing management to assist authorities interested in this new approach.

Neighbourhood Renewal

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the criteria to be used in assessing bids under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programmes Community Development Fund are. [152493]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I believe my hon. Friend is referring to the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) which is being set up as part of the Government's New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal as announced on 15 January 2001.

Detailed proposals for the administration of the Community Empowerment Fund are currently being developed by officials. Once they have been agreed, the details will be included in the Local Strategic Partnerships Guidance which is expected to be published shortly.

Planning Officers

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what measures he (a) proposes and (b) has in place to prevent planning officers from misleading elected representatives;. [152469]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires that all planning applications must be determined in accordance with the

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development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Reports to planning committees should provide all relevant information to enable the committee to reach a decision. Failure on the part of a planning committee to take account of all relevant considerations may constitute maladministration and the decision of the committee may be subject to challenge by judicial review.

The Local Government Association's 'Probity in Planning' contains good practice guidelines for officer reports to planning committees. It advises that reports should be accurate and cover, among other things, the substance of objections and the views of those consulted. Relevant points will include: a clear exposition of the development plan, site or related history, and any other material considerations; a written recommendation of action; and a technical appraisal which clearly justifies the recommendation. If the report's recommendation is contrary to policies in the development plan, the material considerations which justify this must be clearly stated.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in what ways the construction skills certification scheme is enforced; what impact it has had; and what penalties have been used for non-compliance. [152483]

Ms Beverley Hughes: In the first instance, it is up to contractors to decide whether or not to require their managers, supervisors and operatives to be registered under the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) or similar scheme. However, the Confederation of Construction Clients announced at the construction "safety summit" on 27 February that their members, and clients who are signatories to the Clients Charter, would require 100 per cent. of the work force on sites for which they are clients to be registered by end 2002. The Office of Government Commerce are discussing with central Government Departments and agencies procurement guidance which will suggest that they should make similar commitments to require the work force on construction contracts for which they are the client to be registered.

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