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6 Nov 2002 : Column 425Wcontinued
Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 28 October 2002, Official Report, column 522W, on renewable energy, what discussions he has had with the Scottish Parliament about its revised planning guidance on renewable energy; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: We are currently preparing the revised draft planning guidance on renewable energy (PPS 22). In doing so, we have been in discussion with a number of interested parties including the Scottish Executive. There will be further consultation, and discussions will continue ahead of issuing the draft guidance at the turn of the year for public consultation.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many applications have been (a) received and (b) approved for development on Green Belt land since 1997, broken down by region; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: Applications for planning permission are considered by local planning authorities in the first instance. The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Llew Smith: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) of 17 October 2002, Official Report, column 926, on the green belt, if he will list the locations and number of hectares respectively of new green belt land earmarked since June 1997. 
|30940 Removals from the Green Belt are:|
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Mr. Streeter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, what advice he gives local authorities and planning inspectors on how they should define whether a proposed development close to the edge of an existing conurbation is (a) an urban extension or (b) a new settlement. 
Mr. McNulty: The Government's planning policies for housing are set out in PPG3 (Planning Policy Guidance note 3, Housing). PPG3 explains that planned extensions to existing urban areas are likely to prove the next most sustainable option for new housing development after building on appropriate sites within urban areas, and that new settlements can be large-scale additions to existing settlements or freestanding. PPG3 does not define urban extension or new settlement in any further detail.
The characteristics of alternative forms of new development are discussed in the 1993 Department of Environment research report Alternative Development Patterns: new settlements. Urban extensions are described as development that takes place at the edges of existing urban areas, and new settlements as urban growth that is accommodated by a new focus for development that is freestanding.
Mr. McNulty: We are committed to making it easier for people buying and selling homes through the introduction of a seller's pack, and the necessary legislation will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows. The seller's pack will make the home buying and selling process more transparent and certain, and so reduce the stress and wasted costs suffered by hundreds of thousands of consumers each year when transactions fail or are delayed.
Mr. McNulty: Anecdotal evidence from various sources, including local authorities and media advertisements, strongly suggested that the right to buy rules were being exploited in some areas. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University have been commissioned to investigate the scale, nature and impact of such exploitation. The results are expected by the end of this
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Mr. Steen: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the local housing authorities who have transferred council house stock amounting to fewer than 499 properties to a single alternative social landlord since 1988, and state in each case (a) the grant from Government to write off debt, (b) the total cost to the local authority in professional fees, (c) other relevant costs of the transfer and (d) the capital receipt. 
Mr. McNulty: No payments have been made by the Office of Deputy Prime Minister, or its predecessor Departments, since arrangements were put in place in 1999 toward repaying local authority housing attributable debt on transfers of fewer than 499 dwellings. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not keep a record of local authorities who have transferred fewer than 499 properties to registered social landlords, the cost to the local authority of professional fees, other relevant transfer costs or capital receipts in such transfers.
Mr. McNulty: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister record the number of local housing authorities who are accepted onto the Large Scale Voluntary Transfers disposals programme each year. The information for the years in question is set out in the table below.
|Year of Programme||Number of Local Authorities Successfully Gaining a Place|
(6)Between 1993 and 2000 the duration of each transfer programme was one year. This period was extended to 2 years from 2001.
(7)There are 5 more authorities who have a place on the disposals programme held open for them while their schemes are further developed.
Mr. Swire: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to increase the powers of authority of the tribunal chairman and clerk to obtain facts and information in order to increase the parity between the appellant and the Valuation Office Agency in disputes. 
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Mr. Leslie: There are no plans to increase the powers of authority of valuation tribunal chairmen and clerks. Tribunals already have wide ranging powers to conduct hearings in such a manner as to ensure just handling and to adjourn hearings to enable relevant information or facts to be provided.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the annual expenditure of the Government Office for London was; how many full time employees or equivalent there were in each year since its establishment; and if he will make a statement. 
No staffing figures are available prior to 1999. Approximate full time equivalent posts from April 1999 are as follows:
The number has subsequently risen to approximately 295, chiefly due to the transfer to GOL from the Home Office of 19 crime reduction staff (in June 2002) and 10 Drug Prevention Advisory Service staff (on 1 October).
Mr. Evans: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total cost to the taxpayer was of producing the North West Regional Assembly publication, ''Your Region, Your Choice-Revitalising English Regions''; and how many copies were printed. 
Mr. Raynsford: This document was produced by the North West Regional Assembly as a response to the Government's White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice; Revitalising the English Regions. The publication and its content and costs are a matter for the Assembly.
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