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Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many public inquiries into planning applications have lasted more than (a) one month and (b) three months in each of the last five years. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 27 November 2001]: Public inquiries are presided over by Inspectors provided by the Planning Inspectorate. I have asked the Inspectorate's Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Shepley, to write to my hon. Friend.
Letter from C. J. Shepley to Paddy Tipping dated 28 November 2001:
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|Year decision issued||Cases where inquiry sat for between 20 days (1 month) and 59 days||Cases where inquiry sat for 60 days (3 months) or more|
|2001 (to date)||8||2|
Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent assessment he has made of the environmental performance of the UK quarry industry in comparison with (a) other EU and (b) non-EU countries. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 27 November 2001]: My Department has made no recent assessment of the environmental performance of the UK quarry industry in comparison with other EU or non-EU countries.
Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the development of a rural road hierarchy, as required by the Transport Act 2000. 
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Mr. Jamieson: The concept of a hierarchy was considered as part of the Speed Review and the Government's Road Safety Strategy, both published last year.
The Transport Act 2000 committed the Government to consider the development of a rural road hierarchy for speed management purposes. Following Royal Assent the DTLR set up a Working Group of professionals and the main interest groups. The Group has prepared a thorough report that raises some interesting points and recommendations. As required by the Act, the Secretary of State has today laid copies of this report before each of the Houses of Parliament.
I commend the Working Group for the excellent job they have done in identifying the benefits of a hierarchy. I am also grateful for their frank assessment that currently, if it were developed as a system of different speed limits, a hierarchy would be costly both financially and in terms of environmental intrusion. Also, given the necessary infrastructure and behavioural changes required, the road safety and quality of life benefits could take too long to realise.
I am grateful to the Group for identifying the clear links between the development of a hierarchy and several other Road Safety Strategy initiatives. Above all, I agree that the DTLR's assessment framework would be the best place to carry out the work to determine criteria for assigning roads within the hierarchy. As such, I fully accept their recommendation to incorporate the speed limit setting element of the hierarchy within the development of the assessment framework.
They rightly identify the signing issues as a big obstacle to progressing the hierarchy as they have proposed it. The DTLR will shortly be commencing work on the Road Safety Strategy commitment to review speed limit signing regimes. I have instructed officials to consider the signing elements of the hierarchy report as part of this work.
The Group recognised the need for traffic calming measures to support speed limits in order to achieve changes in vehicle speeds. The forthcoming DTLR project to develop practical speed management measures on rural roads will be the best vehicle for testing such traffic calming treatments.
Of course, there are innovative measures that have already been tried by my Department, like vehicle activated signs, that will in future be more widely applied where suitable. Detailed guidance on the use of vehicle activated signs will be produced next year.
Both the Working Group and the Speed Review identified the need for more information before we can properly assess the case for lower rural speed limits. I am therefore committing the DTLR to undertake a survey of vehicle speeds on a representative sample of rural roads to ensure that decisions are evidence based.
With the package of measures I have outlined here, and those in the Road Safety Strategy, I am convinced that we will be able to build on this report and deliver real benefits to those who live, work and travel in rural areas.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to
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his answer of 21 November 2001, Official Report, column 327W, on rural bus services, how much of the money outlined in the Rural White Paper for the Rural Bus Challenge and Rural Transport Partnership programme was spent in (a) 200001 and (b) 200102; and how much each initiative has received. 
Ms Keeble: A total of £21 million was allocated to new Rural Bus Challenge projects in 200001, spending over a number of financial years. Expenditure in that year on all Challenge projects, including those begun in previous years, was £11 million. There is £20 million available for awards in this year's Rural Bus Challenge competition, decisions on which will be announced shortly. Forecast expenditure in the current year on all projects is £23 million.
The Countryside Agency's Rural Transport Partnership Programme spent £4.8 million in 200001. For this financial year, formal grant offers total £7.1 million to date, of which £2.9 million has been spent.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 21 November 2001, Official Report, column 327W, on rural bus services, if he will specify (a) the size of the samples for rural areas and (b) the areas the samples were carried out in (i) 1992 to 1994, (ii) 1995 to 1997 and (iii) 1998 to 2000. 
Ms Keeble: The sample size of households in rural areas within Great Britain in the National Travel Survey were
The areas used to select household samples consist of one or more postcode sectors, which cannot be specified because of confidentiality. The sampling procedure is set out in the annual National Travel Survey Technical Reports available in the Library of the House.
Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 14 November 2001, Official Report, column 738W, on cash incentive scheme payments, if he will raise the maximum cash incentive grant to council tenants to buy their own homes in Poole to a level comparable, in relation to average house prices, to the level offered in London and the South-East. 
Ms Keeble: We have no immediate plans to make any changes to the limits set for cash incentive scheme payments. We are, however, reviewing the control framework under which the scheme operates.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the powers the local strategic partnerships will have to carry out their tasks. 
Ms Keeble: Local strategic partnerships (LSPs) are not executive bodies. Their purpose is to co-ordinate the activities of their members in order to tackle local problems. Those members will include representatives
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from the public, private, voluntary and community sector. Recent legislation has extended the ability of public sector bodies such as health authorities and local authorities to work in partnership with organisations in other sectors. Executive responsibility for implementing the partnerships' strategies rests with the partner organisations.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions by what methods the local strategic partnerships assess needs of the local people and find those who are often excluded. 
Ms Keeble: Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) will involve the public, private, community and voluntary sectors to ensure that initiatives and services work together locally. LSPs will devise and implement community strategies and local neighbourhood renewal strategies, which will improve the delivery of local services generally, with a specific focus on deprived areas. These strategies should build on information from local people on what they need and want, rather than working from the top down. The statutory guidance, Preparing Community Strategies, refers to an analysis of needs which should be carried out by the various partners on the LSP. Considerable background information will already exist.
LSPs must include local people, especially those from deprived neighbourhoods and from excluded groups, such as black and minority ethnic groups and older people. LSPs will need to provide them with training and support so they can be fully involved from the start. The Government have established the Community Empowerment Fund, which will provide £36 million over the next 3 years to create 'Community Networks' in the 88 most deprived English areas. In each area, CEF moneys will be given direct to a local voluntary organisation chosen by the regional Government Office. This 'lead organisation' will form a Community Network to ensure a high level of community representation on the LSP.
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