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19 Jan 2004 : Column 1092W—continued

Local Government Planning

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government will press local authorities reviewing the potential for re-allocating excess employment land to consider the option of withdrawing sites from their development plans, with particular reference to those which are identified as low priority for development according to the sequential approach set out in PPG3. [149190]

Yvette Cooper: Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: "Housing" (PPG3), requires local planning authorities to review all their non-housing allocations, including those for employment, and consider whether some of this land might better be used for housing or mixed use developments.

In July 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published a consultation document, "Supporting the Delivery of New Housing". This proposes to add new policy to PPG3 requiring local planning authorities to consider applications for housing development favourably on allocated industrial and employment sites. It highlighted the need to review employment sites and to identify those which no longer need to be retained for employment uses. Such sites would then be de-allocated at the next review of the plan, and consideration given to whether the sites should be allocated for other uses. Whether such sites are suitable for housing will depend on how they perform against PPG3 policies, including the sequential approach.

The consultation closed on 31 October 2003 and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is considering the responses received. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will publish the final policy, alongside practice guidance to help local planning authorities in reviewing employment land allocations, in due course.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the quantity of previously developed land that is (a) available for redevelopment and (b) likely to become available for redevelopment up to 2016. [149194]

Yvette Cooper: From the 2002 National Land Use Database of Previously Developed Land, an estimated 66,000 hectares of previously developed land are available for development in England. This includes both vacant and derelict land and land currently in use with known potential for redevelopment. New sites amounted to 14 per cent. of the 2001 stock of previously developed land. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not made any forecasts of future flows of land likely to become available for redevelopment.

Mobile Phone Masts

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Stewart report on mobile phone masts in relation to

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PPG8, with particular reference to the recommendations of the report on main beam transmissions next to sensitive sites. [149182]

Yvette Cooper: The Stewart report recommended that all telecommunications development be subject to the planning process in order to improve local consultation. On 22 August 2001, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister strengthened public consultation requirements on mast proposals of 15 metres and below and for masts on buildings and structures so that they are exactly the same as applications for planning permission. The changes to the planning arrangements also underlined that school governors must be consulted on all proposals for new masts on or near a school or college.

The Stewart Report also recommended that an independent random, on-going, audit of base stations be carried out to ensure that exposure guidelines are not exceeded. Ofcom (formerly the Radiocommunications Agency) is undertaking the audit, which has been running since December 2000 and has focused on school sites. The results have shown emissions ranging between several hundred to many thousand times below the public exposure guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).


Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many, and what percentage of recommendations from inspectors called in dealing with (a) planning appeals and (b) applications he overturned in each year since 1997. [148484]

Yvette Cooper: This information is only available for decisions taken since 1 April 2002 by the new Planning Central Casework Division (PCCD) established in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on that date to take over work previously done predominantly by Government Offices, Information on decisions administered by PCCD since April 2002 is tabled:

YearTotal appeal decisionsInspector's recommendation overturnedTotal call in decisionsInspector's recommendation overturned
2002–20031245 (4%)5912 (20%)
2003–2004(47) 17916 (9%)728 (11%)

(47) First three quarters

In relation to decisions made before the setting up of PCCD, the available information (which does not distinguish between called in applications and appeals) is tabled:

YearSecretary of State decisionsInspector's Recommendation overturned
1999–200018413 (7%)
2000–0118922 (12%)
2001–0218013 (7%)
2002–03(48) 6417 (26%)
2003–04(48)52 (40%)

(48) First three quarters

Comprehensive information is not held centrally for the period April 1997 to March 1999, and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

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Planning Guidance

John Mann: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what account planning authorities in England are required to take of (a) written departmental guidelines circulated to them and (b) ministerial speeches in Parliament. [147970]

Yvette Cooper: Written Departmental Guidance and Ministerial speeches in Parliament are capable of being material considerations which local planning authorities must take into account when exercising their planning powers (for both forward planning and development control purposes). Central Government policy may be communicated to local planning authorities in various ways (for example by written guidance or oral statements) and may be taken into account by a local planning authority, irrespective of the way in which it is communicated. The weight to be attached to it may vary, however, depending on how formally it is expressed.

Mrs. May: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance he has provided to local authorities on the incorporation of estimates for climate change into the definition of floodplain for planning purposes. [148281]

Yvette Cooper: The flood zones in the risk-based sequential test in Planning Policy Guidance note (PPG) 25 "Development and flood risk", which was published in July 2001, are based on Environment Agency mapping of the risks at the time of map preparation. This does not include any allowance for climate change. However, local planning authorities and developers are advised to take account of climate change in assessing the risks from flooding. PPG 25 recommends a minimum standard of flood defence that takes account of the allowances for climate change contained in the "Project appraisal guidance for flood and coastal defence", published by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1999.

Climate change allowances have been re-examined by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) following publication of new climate change scenarios in 2002. Further guidance was published by DEFRA in 2003, which does not differ in its essentials from that already cited in PPG 25.

Property Revaluations

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what research his Department has commissioned on the impact upon pensioners of the revaluation of properties in England in 2007; and if he will make a statement. [148235]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government acknowledged the criticisms of council tax in the 2001 White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership, Quality Public Services". Consequently the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has established the Balance of Funding review to consider possible reforms to the current arrangements. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has commissioned various research studies to inform the review including analysis of the potential impact of

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revaluation on different regions and groups of council tax payers. The review will be considering proposals for change in the course of the next few months.

Registered Social Landlords

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the registered social landlords under investigation by the Housing Corporation; and if he will make a statement. [148728]

Yvette Cooper: The Housing Corporation is responsible for some 2,000 registered social landlords in England. To comply with the Corporation's Regulatory Code, all registered social landlords provide the Corporation with financial and regulatory information. The Corporation conducts a range of regulatory reviews as part of its routine regulatory exchanges. The Corporation has statutory powers to direct an inquiry into the affairs of a registered social landlord. There is currently only one such inquiry under way, into Solon Wandsworth Housing Association Ltd.

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received from registered social landlords on allowing them to exceed the cap in relation to the rent increases set down in the Government's rent restructuring policy; and if he will make a statement. [148729]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created in May 2002. Since this time, we have received four written representations from registered social landlords (RSLs) seeking a revision to the cap on rents of properties with the highest capital values which is incorporated into our rent restructuring policy. The current cap in 2003–04 ranges from £87.30 for a bedsit to £102.70 for a property with four or more bedrooms. For the small number of properties affected by this safeguard, the maximum increase in future years is set at Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1 per cent. a year.

As set out in our initial policy, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently conducting a three-year review of the policy, with the aim of completing this in the spring.

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