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2 Dec 2002 : Column 544W—continued

Executive Programme Funds

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how Executive Programme Funds will be administered following the suspension of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. [83103]

Mr. Pearson: The Executive Programme Funds will continue to be administered in accordance with the procedures previously agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive. There are no plans to change the established arrangements.

Fire Service

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who will be responsible during direct rule for deciding the proportion or level of contribution from Northern Ireland rates for the Fire Service. [84470]

Mr. Pearson: In Northern Ireland the Regional Rate, for which the Department of Finance and Personnel is responsible, is not dedicated to specific services. There is no fixed amount in the rates that can be identified as contributing directly towards the cost of providing particular services such as the fire service.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the institutional relationship of the employers' side of the negotiating body for Fire Service personnel within Northern Ireland with the employers' side of the negotiating body involved in the Fire Brigade dispute. [84473]

Mr. Browne: The Joint Standing Sub Committee (JSSC) of the National Joint Council is the negotiating body directly involved in the current dispute. A Member of the Fire Authority for Northern Ireland has observer status during the JSSC Employers discussions, but is not involved in the direct negotiations with the FBU.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who constitutes the employers' side of the negotiating machinery for the Fire Service of Northern Ireland; and who appoints them. [84475]

Mr. Browne: The Fire Authority for Northern Ireland have two seats on the National Joint Council. The Fire Authority does not have seats on the Joint Standing Sub Committee, which negotiates pay and conditions of service.

The Fire Authority for Northern Ireland representatives are elected by the Board at the Authority's Annual General Meeting. The current representatives are Mrs. Rosemary Craig and Professor James Shields.

Hospital Services (Belfast)

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what work has been carried out to assess the change in demand for services at the Belfast City and Royal Victoria hospitals if the proposals to downgrade services at Whiteabbey and the Mater hospitals in North Belfast are proceeded with. [84516]

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Mr. Browne: The proposals set out in the consultation paper. XDeveloping Better Services: Modernising Hospitals and Reforming Structures", were based on a preliminary analysis of the current levels of demand and an assessment of the most effective profile of services to ensure safe services and improved outcomes in the future. Following consideration of the responses to the consultation paper, there will be a detailed assessment of the capacity implications of the decisions which I will then be taking.

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will ensure the retention of accident and emergency care at Whiteabbey hospital in North Belfast. [84517]

Mr. Browne: The Department is currently considering the responses to the proposals in the consultation paper, XDeveloping Better Services: Modernising Hospitals and Reforming Structures", which included proposals for future services at Whiteabbey hospital. I hope to reach final decisions on the proposals for modernising hospitals in January.

Planning Applications

Mr. Hume: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to Planning Applications A/1999/0879/0, A/2001/0661/RM and A/2002/0167/RM, for what reason the Planning Service in Northern Ireland did not act to require this new development to comply with original planning permission guidelines as far as it impinges on the rights and privacy of the existing residents. [83793]

Angela Smith: An Outline Planning Application for 2 Detached Dwellings at the rear of 4 Steelstown Road, Londonderry was received by the Department on 12 November 1999. Planning applications may be in outline form, where the general principle of development is being tested and where full details of development are submitted at a later date by way of a Reserved Matters Application; or in the form of a full application where full details of siting, design, external appearance, means of access and landscaping are submitted. This Outline Planning application was approved on 9 March 2000.

A Reserved Matters Application was received on 12 June 2001. A Reserved Matters Application is a detailed proposal where the full details of siting, design, external appearance, means of access and landscaping are submitted. This application was approved on 5 February 2002, with a condition that the existing mature trees on the site boundary be retained. There were further conditions regarding planting proposals.

In early February the Department became aware that work had commenced on site which was not strictly in accordance with the planning approval. A further reserved matters application was received on the 19 February 2002. Following discussions between planning officials, the developer and local residents further revisions to the plans were received on the 28 May 2002 which accurately reflected the detail of the development that had occurred.

Planning Service is satisfied that the development, as built, is acceptable in planning terms. As you are aware the Planning Service brought the application to Derry

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City Council on 5 November 2002 with an opinion to approve. Planning Service agreed that a further period of 10 days would be allowed for any further representations to be made.

Further representations have, since been received and no decision will be made until these representations have been fully and carefully considered

Mr. Hume: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement regarding his policy on protecting the rights of existing residents when the Planning Service are considering granting planning approval for new housing developments. [83794]

Mr. Andrew Smith: When considering proposals for new housing development in existing residential areas, the Planning Service of the Department of the Environment pays particular attention to their potential impact on the neighbourhood to ensure that appreciable harm is not caused by such development to the amenities enjoyed by existing residents and to the existing character and environmental quality of the area.

Since the introduction of the Quality Initiative in 1996 to promote better quality and more sustainable housing development, a comprehensive range of policy and guidance documents has been put in place to raise the quality of new residential development generally, with particular attention being paid to ensuring that the drive to promote more housing in existing urban areas does not lead to any significantdiminution of the quality of life in established residential areas.

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Regional Development Strategy (RDS) published in September 2001 provides the overarching strategic framework for the formulation of development plans and planning policy in Northern Ireland.

In support of urban renaissance and more sustainable forms of development, the RDS sets an ambitious regional target of 60 per cent. for the share of urban housing to be provided within urban limits, and seeks to encourage an increase in the density of urban housing appropriate in scale and design to the cities and towns of Northern Ireland.

However, the RDS stresses that the aim of achieving an overall increase in town densities must not be interpreted as a broad mandate to try and force overdeveloped and unsympathetic housing schemes into established residential areas. In such areas the overriding objective has to be to avoid any significant erosion of the environmental quality, amenity and privacy enjoyed by existing residents.

In established residential areas, the RDS encourages harmonious housing schemes of various densities in accordance with a local community focused approach sensitive in design terms to the people living in the existing neighbourhood, taking account of the Strategy's Local Development Guidelines and Planning Policy Statement 7 Quality Residential Environments.

Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS 7), Quality Residential Environment published in June 2001, clearly states that in established residential areas, proposals for housing development will not be permitted where they would result in unacceptable damage to the local character, environmental quality or

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residential amenity of these areas. All proposals for residential development are expected to take full account of the surrounding context, particularly those proposals for infill housing, backland development or redevelopment schemes in established residential areas. PPS 7 points out that in such areas great care is needed to ensure that the individual orcumulative effects of such development proposals do not significantly erode character and amenity, for example by inappropriate design or overdevelopment. The Department will need to be satisfied in considering such proposals that the design and layout will not create conflict with adjacent housing areas and that there is no unacceptable adverse effect on existing or proposed properties in terms ofoverlooking, loss of light, overshadowing, noise or other disturbance.

The Department's Supplementary Planning Guidance, 'Creating Places—achieving quality in residential developments' (May 2000) and Development Control Advice Note 8 'Housing in Existing Urban Areas' (June 2002), provides detailed design advice and guidelines intended to amplify and clarify policy guidance wherenecessary. Both documents emphasise the importance of a design-led approach to create imaginative, safe and attractive housing. In existing urban areas this embraces the philosophy of working with context, 'fitting' development in with the prevailing character and appearance of the neighbourhood and ensuring that infill, backland and redevelopment proposals are successfully integrated with existing housing without appreciable harm to the character and amenity their residents currently enjoy.

The above documents provide clear and robust policies and guidance for developers in formulating development proposals for housing in established residential areas and clearly set out the criteria under which such proposals will be assessed by the Planning Service. The Planning Service will seek whatever additional information is necessary to properly assess and determine such planning applications, the overall objective being that high quality and sustainable housing can be provided in existing residential areas without detriment to the residents of those areas.

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