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3 Feb 2005 : Column 1085W—continued

Homes (Hartlepool)

Iain Wright: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he intends to designate specific sites for development within Hartlepool under the policies set out in Sustainable Communities: Homes for All. [213501]

Keith Hill: No. This is a matter for Hartlepool borough council to consider through its local development plan process working within national planning guidance and the regional spatial strategy. The Council's review of the Hartlepool Local Plan has recently considered the issue of housing need in the borough and has identified a range of housing sites. Housing market renewal in Hartlepool has also been recognised as a priority by the North East Housing Board. Tees Valley (including Hartlepool) is likely to be one of the beneficiaries of funding recently announced for Housing Market Renewal to be available from April 2006 and distributed through Regional Housing Boards.


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans there are for providing new housing with a selling price of £60,000 in the Chorley constituency. [214397]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister recently announced that we are working on a new First Time Buyers Initiative—of which the Design for Manufacture" competition is an adjunct—designed to provide those who are unable to purchase a home outright with a stepping stone" to independent home ownership. English Partnerships will be leading on the delivery of 15,000 homes to 2010. It is not possible, at the present time, to identify precisely where homes constructed under these schemes will be available. However, in addition to sites in English Partnership's portfolio we will be encouraging other landowners, such as local authorities, to use the scheme's model as a way of addressing affordability issues in their areas.

Housing Associations

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list local housing associations that have been given consent to impose a right of first refusal on Right to Buy or voluntary sales under section 197 of the Housing Act 2004. [213318]

Keith Hill: Consent does not have to be given to housing associations before they can impose a right of first refusal covenant in respect of Right to Buy or voluntary sales under the Housing Act 2004.

Under section 188 of the Housing Act 2004, all social landlords (local authorities or housing associations) that sell properties under the Right to Buy scheme are required to include a right of first refusal" covenant in the conveyance or grant of lease. This covenant requires the owner of an ex-Right to Buy home who wishes to
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resell it within 10 years of the Right to Buy sale to offer it to the former landlord or to another social landlord, at market value. If the offer is not accepted, the owner is free to sell on the open market. Regulations setting out the procedures to be followed will be laid before Parliament shortly. These regulations will reflect the responses to the Government's consultation paper published in March 2004, and sent to landlords, representative bodies, and tenants' organisations.

Properties sold by housing associations:

are also subject to this right of first refusal", under section 171C of the Housing Act 1985 (in relation to the preserved Right to Buy), section 17 of the Housing Act 1996 (in relation to the Right to Acquire), and section 200 of the Housing Act 2004 (in relation to voluntary disposals, unless waived with the specific consent of the Housing Corporation).

Consent is still required for the imposition of a right of first refusal covenant in areas which have been designated as rural by the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister under section 157 of the Housing Act 1985, but this is not a change brought about by the Housing Act 2004.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government's policy on the extension of the right-to-buy to housing associations has changed. [209785]

Keith Hill: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 1 February 2005, Official Report, columns 814–15W.

Letter Boxes

Ms Walley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what planning regulation changes his Department is planning to introduce to address safety concerns over low-level letter boxes, in line with standard EN 13724. [213721]

Phil Hope: EN 13724 is a voluntary standard setting out specifications covering the height, positioning and design of letter boxes for ergonomic and safety reasons. The Government have no plans to amend the Building Regulations to implement this standard.

Local Government

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans the Government have to reduce the level of inspection of local government in (a) 2005–06, (b) 2006–07 and (c) 2007–08. [211975]

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Mr. Raynsford: The Government are working to ensure that inspection focuses more clearly on improvement for service users and, through a risk based and proportionate approach, the overall burden of inspection will be significantly reduced.

Inspection programmes have not been worked up in detail for the years in question, but in 2004–05 there was a 30 per cent. reduction in the number of inspections compared to 2002–03.

The Audit Commission, which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister sponsors, anticipates that by 2006–07, the volume of inspections needed for Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA), including the corporate assessments planned for that year, should fall by 68 per cent. from the 2002–03 level.

Ministerial Tour

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what complaints he has received concerning his tour of the North East on 1 November 2004; what action has been taken concerning these complaints; and if he will place a copy of the correspondence in the Library. [212267]

Mr. Raynsford: No complaints have been received by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister concerning the tour of the North East on 1 November 2004.

Regional Referendums

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what (a) polling, (b) focus group research and (c) other measures of public opinion were undertaken by his Department since June 2003 in relation to (i) the regional referendum in the North East and (ii)preparation for the referendums in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber; and if he will place a copy of the reports in the Library. [213157]

Mr. Raynsford: The results of the Soundings Exercise were published in June 2003. This considered the level of interest in holding referendums on establishing elected regional assemblies in the English regions. Copies are already available in the Library of the House and on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website.

No polls, focus groups or other measures of public opinion on this subject have been undertaken since then by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Some research was undertaken to measure the effect of the Your Say Information Campaign in increasing awareness of the referendums but this was not a measure of public opinion.
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Satellite Dishes

Mr. Olner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to publish his Department's response to the consultation paper, Satellite dishes and other antennas: consultation on possible changes to planning regulations for satellite dishes and other antennas. [213087]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has completed its analysis of the response to the consultation paper: Satellite dishes and other antennas" and expects to make an announcement very shortly.

Second Homes (National Parks)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of how many and what percentage of houses in each National Park in England are second homes; and if he will make a statement. [213949]

Keith Hill: The information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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