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Regional Spatial Strategies

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy min Minister (1) what discussions his Department has had with each of the English regions with regard to their spatial strategies concerning (a) key priorities, (b) resources required and (c) time scales for delivery; and if he will make a statement; [216120]

(2) what discussions (a) his Department and (b) Government Offices have had with regional assemblies in England on the preparation of their spatial strategies with particular reference to developing freight infrastructure. [216121]

Keith Hill: Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) were put on a statutory basis by section 1(1) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The final version of any Regional Spatial Strategy revision is approved and issued by the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy min Minister.

The Regional Planning Body (RPB) is required to work in consultation and cooperation with the Government office (GO) in the development of the RSS. The RPB should for example, agree the project plan with the GO which will include key priorities and timescales for delivery. It is good practice for the RPB to work closely with the GO in preparing the draft revision, although care needs to be taken to ensure that ownership of the emerging RSS rests clearly with the RPB until the point at which the revised draft RSS is submitted to the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy min Minister. The Government office can advise on issues to be addressed in the revision and the application of national policy. This could include working in liaison with the Office of the Deputy
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min Minister and the Department for Transport to inform the development of the transport aspects of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

A number of Government offices have been involved with Regional Assemblies, Regional Development Agencies and local stakeholders to develop regional freight strategies to inform the development of Regional Transport Strategies.

The Regional Assemblies are required to produce rolling medium-term business plans for three financial years, setting out for year one their proposed activities including priorities and timescales for delivery of the RSS for the year in question and providing forward projections for years two and three. Business plans are submitted to the Government office for consideration, and inform the level of resources required for the relevant financial year.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy min Minister what steps he plans to take when the consultation process on the South East Spatial Strategy is complete; and if he will make a statement. [216458]

Keith Hill: The South East England Regional Assembly is currently consulting on spatial options for future development in the south east region. The Office of the Deputy min Minister expects it to submit the draft south east plan by late 2005. Thereafter it will tested by an independent panel. It would not be right for us to pre-empt the outcome of this process. Therefore Government will not make a statement at this stage.

Rent Harmonisation

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy min Minister what he expects the average change to council tenant rents will be when the measures designed to increase harmonisation between council and housing association tenants come into effect. [216611]

Keith Hill: At this stage the effect on council rents is unknown. The plans are being reviewed in response to concerns raised following the consultation over the summer of 2004. As they stood, those proposals would have had the effect of increasing the average rent by £0.36 per week beyond that planned under the existing policy.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy min Minister for what reason rent harmonisation measures for council and housing association rents have been postponed until the end of 2005. [216643]

Keith Hill: The decision was taken to postpone the introduction of the proposals after concerns were raised over the accuracy of some of the property valuation data, and the impact this would have had on rent levels.

These concerns are being investigated and, subject to a further consultation period, the revised proposals will be introduced in time for the 2006–07 financial year.

Roadside Advertising

Simon Hughes: To ask the Deputy min Minister what Government policy is on commercial advertising alongside motorways and major roads. [216392]

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Keith Hill: Local planning authorities are responsible for the control of outdoor advertisements and have powers to take enforcement action against any advertisements displayed unlawfully. Before giving consent for an advertisement to be displayed, local planning authorities must consider amenity and public safety aspects. Prior consent from the owner of the land is also required. Advertisements which are likely to distract motorists on a motorway or major road are unlikely to be approved.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Deputy min Minister (1) whether his Department maintains records of temporary wheeled billboards placed next to motorways; and if he will make a statement; [216858]

(2) what provisions there are for temporary wheeled billboards placed next to motorways to be removed where they are judged to be a distraction to drivers; [216859]

(3) what assessment he has made of the potential for distraction by temporary wheeled billboards being placed next to motorways. [216860]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy min Minister does not maintain records of temporary wheeled billboards placed next to motorways. Research carried out into causes of road accidents has considered the effect of advertisements alongside motorways and trunk roads but the results have not been conclusive.

Local planning authorities have enforcement powers they can use to remove unlawfully displayed advertisements.

Sand Reserves

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy min Minister pursuant to the answer of 9 February 2005, Official Report, column 1586W, on sand reserves, how much of the 3.2 million tonnes of sand released under the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan has been taken; what estimate he has made of how long the sand at the existing permitted reserves will last; whether a full survey has been carried out to establish the total sand reserves in Lancashire; and how much sand will be needed for the next 10 years for Lancashire in accordance with revised Minerals Planning Guidance Note 6. [217159]

Keith Hill: None of the 3.2 million tonnes of sand required to be released by the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan has been extracted since the plan was adopted. All production has been from reserves which already had planning permission at the time of adoption. Two applications for sand extraction have been submitted recently and await determination—one is near St. Michaels on Wyre, in Wyre borough, and the other is at Adlington in Chorley borough.

The existing permitted reserves of sand in Lancashire amount to £3.54 million tonnes. At the present rates of production, these reserves would last for seven years.

Stage 1 of a Sand and Gravel Study, undertaken by planning consultants and the British Geological Survey on behalf of the Lancashire joint authorities, has recently been completed. It identifies potential areas of high grade sand deposits within the county for further investigation in stage 2 to be conducted later this year.
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The revised Mineral Planning Guidance Note 6 require the north-west to provide 55 million tonnes of land-won sand and gravel over the period 2001 to 2016. Lancashire's share of this total is 8.2 million tonnes, which equates to 5 million tonnes in a 10-year period.

Social Exclusion Unit

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Deputy min Minister what the cost of the Social Exclusion Unit was in the last year for which figures are available. [217318]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3 February 2005, Official Report, column 1088W to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner).

Social Housing

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Deputy min Minister what percentage of the working age population who are (a) economically active and (b) economically inactive are social housing tenants. [215526]

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Keith Hill: Based on Labour Force Survey results for spring 2004 it is estimated that, of household reference persons 1 in England of working age:

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Deputy min Minister how many social housing tenants there are; and how many are (a) employed, (b) unemployed and (c) economically active, broken down by age and gender. [215527]

Keith Hill: Using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) it is estimated that in spring 2004 there were approximately 3,782,000 social housing tenancies in England.

The following table provides a breakdown of these households on the basis of the economic status, age and gender of the household reference persons for households living in social housing.

Economic activity of household reference persons for households in social housing
Sex/ageEmployedUnemployedEconomically activeRetiredOther inactiveNot knownTotal
65 or over24226492351554
65 or over1001069301705

ONS Labour Force Survey

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy min Minister how many (a) housing association tenants and (b) local authority tenants (i) have and (ii) do not have the right to buy in the Chorley constituency; and how many properties have been sold in each of the last five years. [216405]

Keith Hill: At 1 April 2003, there were around 2,800 housing association tenants in Chorley. It is not possible to say exactly how many of these have the right to buy their rented homes.

In England, around 50 per cent. of housing association tenants qualify for the right to buy or the preserved right to buy. The right to buy is available to pre-1988 secure tenants of non-charitable housing associations. Housing association properties were generally let on secure tenancies until 1988, but all new lettings since then have been on assured tenancies which do not include the right to buy. In addition, tenants of former local authority housing stock that has been transferred to housing associations retain a preserved right-to-buy.

At 1 April 2003, there were around 3,200 local authority tenants in Chorley. The majority of these have the right to buy their homes. Secure tenants of local authorities (ie, the majority of local authority tenants) have the right to buy.

Tenants must have spent at least two years as a public sector tenant to qualify for the right to buy. The Housing Act 2004 increases the qualification period to five years for new tenancies granted on or after 18 January 2005.

Right to buy sales in Chorley during the past five years for which figures are available are tabled as follows:

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