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design of new buildings in areas of special historic interest, with particular reference to the City of London. 
Mr. McNulty: PPG1 General Policy and Principles underlines that "good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process and should be encouraged everywhere", and that particular weight should be given to the impact of development on areas of "townscape value". There are special requirements under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 when exercising planning functions affecting listed buildings and conservation areas. There no plans to change these expectations.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to encourage (a) the construction industry, (b) architects and (c) local authorities to improve the quality of design of new buildings. 
Mr. McNulty: A comprehensive agenda has been set out in "Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future", including significant extra funding for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment to drive up design standards and skills. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's planning policies have for some time made it clear that when submitting planning proposals applicants should be able to demonstrate how they have taken account of the need for good design.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what steps he is taking to encourage (a) local authorities and (b) the construction industry to inform local communities of the design of new buildings planned in their area; 
(3) if he will make it his policy to ensure that local residents have the opportunity to see (a) plans and (b) artists' impressions of the quality of design of new constructions proposed in their area, before final planning permission is given; 
(4) if he will make it his policy to penalise local authorities who make it difficult for local residents to gain access to information regarding planned significant construction work in their neighbourhood. 
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Under the Town and Country Planning (Applications) Regulations 1988 applications for planning permission are required to include a plan identifying the land to which the application relates and any other plans or drawings and information necessary to describe the development question. Local Planning Authorities can request further information, plans and drawings necessary to enable them to determine the application. All planning applications and planning decisions are placed on the planning register and are open to public inspection during office hours.
Local planning authorities are required under the Town & Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 to publicise all planning applications. As a minimum, authorities have to notify neighbours directly or place a notice on or near the site. For major applications, including the erection of 10 or more dwellings, a local newspaper advertisement is also required. Pre-application discussions between applicants, local authorities and other interested parties are encouraged to minimise problems at a later stage.
In addition to the statutory publicity requirements, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill will, subject to parliamentary approval, require all Local Planning Authorities to produce a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) setting out what the authority will do in terms of involving the community in preparing local development documents and in their consideration of planning applications.
The SCI will set out who the local planning authority intends to consult (above its statutory consultation requirements) when determining an application for planning permission. It can also specify which bodies an authority would encourage developers to consult in advance of submitting applications for significant development.
A local planning authority which does not follow the terms of its SCI, or any of its statutory publicity or consultation requirements could be challenged by an aggrieved person in the courts. Where maladministration or injustice is alleged, complaints can be made to the authority's Monitoring Officer. Complaints about maladministration can also be addressed to the Local Government Commissioner (the Local Ombudsman) who can investigate whether maladministration has occurred.
Mr. McNulty: My right. hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister's proposals for new developments in the Thames Gateway were announced in his statement on sustainable communities, housing and planning on 18 July 2002, Official Report, columns 43842 and his further statement on the long-term programme of action for sustainable communities on 5 February 2003.
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River Thames provide a high level of protection from flooding. The indicative flood plain must not be confused with the functional flood plain where water needs to flow freely in time of flood. Development in this area should be wholly exceptional, and limited to essential transport and utility infrastructure.
Elsewhere in the indicative flood plain in Thames Gateway development proposals will still be subject to an appropriate flood-risk assessment and full consultation with the Environment Agency. The agency is a member of the Environment Sub-Group of the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership, and has been working closely on the proposed developments for over a year. It has produced environmental constraint maps for each of the zones of change within Thames Gateway.
Mrs. May: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister against what criteria he will determine whether to call-in the planning application by the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to develop a civic quarter; and when he will announce his decision. 
Mr. McNulty: My right. hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister's policy, against which he will consider whether to call in a planning application by the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to develop a civic quarter, is to be very selective about calling in planning applications. This step will generally be taken if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. Such cases may include for example, those which in his opinion:
could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality;
give rise to substantial regional or national controversy;
raise significant architectural or design issues; or
may involve the interests of national security or foreign governments.
Mrs. May: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister why the decision on calling-in the planning application by the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for the development of a civic quarter has been postponed. 
Mr. McNulty: The decision on whether or not to call-in the planning application by the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for the development of a civic quarter has been postponed for a short period. This has been to allow consideration of the interrelationships with other proposals, the range of policy issues involved and to allow consideration of public representations that are currently being made to the Government Office.
Mrs. May: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many planning officers were employed in his Department to determine cases of calling-in planning applications on (a) 1 January 2002 and (b) 1 January 2003. 
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Mr. McNulty: The number of staff in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister involved in the planning process (including whether or not to call in a planning application) on (a) 1 January 2002 was 144 and on (b) 1 January 2003 was 131.