Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from Lord Rooker

  When I gave evidence to the Committee on 10 November, I undertook to write to you to in response to a question asked during the hearing. The Committee asked for a full list of how DEFRA have engaged in the Sustainable Communities Plan programme to date. As this hearing focused on the Growth Areas and Thames Gateway, and their sustainability, the supplementary evidence also focuses on the Growth Areas. I am sure you can appreciate that it is not practical to track the formal and informal involvement of ODPM with DEFRA and other Government departments at every level, so this evidence lists the main contact points. I am happy for you to publish my comments as part of your evidence.




    —  ODPM Thames Gateway Strategy Division engages with the Sustainable Land Use division of Defra on a regular basis. This division leads on co-ordinating Defra's input into the Sustainable Communities Plan, for example, Greening the Gateway: the joint document published in January 2004 by ODPM and Defra setting out the Government's vision for greenspace in the Thames Gateway.

    —  ODPM Thames Gateway Strategy Division also engages specifically with the Flood Management Division of Defra.

    —  ODPM Thames Gateway divisions work with Defra representatives from the Government Offices, for example, attending meetings with the Climate Change Partnership of Government Office London. We are also represented on the steering group for joint Defra and Three Regions Climate Change Partnership research into adaptation responses to climate change for new development in the Growth Areas.

Defra's Agencies

    —  The Forestry Commission, English Nature, Environment Agency and Countryside Agency all are represented on the Environment Sub-Group of the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership.

The Environment Agency

    —  We are working with the Environment Agency to ensure sustainable flood management is planned into development in the Gateway. For example, we were joint partners with the Association of British Insurers, London Development Agency and Thames Gateway London Partnership in a conference on flood risk management in the Thames Gateway in July 2004.

    —  ODPM Thames Gateway Strategy Division are taking forward work with the Environment Agency following the conference by setting up a project group/s to ensure that strategic flood risk assessments are carried out throughout the Gateway. We have regular catch-up meetings with the Environment Agency to discuss policy issues of mutual interest.

    —  ODPM Thames Gateway Strategy Division are also represented on the high-level steering group of the Environment Agency's Thames Estuary 2100 project.

    —  The Environment Agency has been invited this week to be represented on the revised Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership.

    —  The Thames Gateway Delivery Unit has funded an Environment Agency project in Medway to model flood risk that will feed into the preparation of a strategic flood risk assessment.

The Countryside Agency

    —  The Countryside Agency is a partner in the Green Grid projects of East London, South Essex and North Kent. These are financially supported by ODPM funding and are major tools in delivering Greening the Gateway.

    —  The Countryside Agency is on the steering group of the North Kent Regional Park project, an ODPM Thames Gateway funded project.

    —  The Countryside Agency is chair of a working group involved in developing recommendations on sustainable development frameworks to feed into the Environment Sub-Group.


    —  Accelerating the Growth Areas requires up front provision of transport, health, education and environment infrastructure. ODPM is currently working closely with OGDs and their agencies to work up plans for future investment for the overall long-term strategy for the Growth Areas.

DEFRA and its Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB)

    —  Through the Rural White Paper Implementation Plan DEFRA plans to influence development in the growth areas to enhance the rural/urban fringe and improve access to the countryside. DEFRA are developing partnerships and a suite of advice on how to deliver sustainable development.

English Nature (NDPB)

    —  English Nature is a partner on the MKSM Environment and Quality of Life Sub-group, which is developing the MKSM Green Infrastructure Strategy.

Countryside Agency (NDPB)

    —  The Countryside Agency work through influencing the plans, policies and decisions of others and by developing innovative tools and techniques with regional bodies and partnerships plus with a range of planning authorities and other organisations at the local level.

Environment Agency (NDPB)

    —  The Environment Agency is involved in delivering elements of Coton Nature Reserve (Cambridgeshire) and Ashford Corridor greenspace projects through the provision of specialist advice and potential funding to provide sustainable water management and flood relief systems.

    —  The Environment Agency is a partner on the MKSM Environment and Quality of Life Sub-group, which is developing the MKSM Green Infrastructure Strategy.

    —  In Ashford we are funding the Environment Agency (a total of £400,000 over three years) to provide, in liaison with relevant organisations, an Integrated Water Management Strategy for the Ashford Growth Area. The Strategy will cover water supply, waste water treatment and flood prevention and alleviation, taking account of the additional housing proposed under the Sustainable Communities Plan. The Strategy will feed into the current Masterplanning for the future growth of Ashford.

    —  ODPM attends regular meetings of the Delivery Managers Group (part of the Ashford Growth Area Delivery vehicle) at which representatives of partners on the Delivery Vehicle (including the Environment Agency) provide updates on progress with ODPM-funded projects. Engagement at this level has been positive (as it has at all levels in the Ashford Delivery vehicle) and the Strategy is making good progress.


Sustainable Communities Strategy Meeting

    —  This is a working group including officials from ODPM, DEFRA, Local Government, Government Offices and the Welsh Assembly to consider Egan's recommendations on Sustainable Community Strategies.

CLP Sub-Group on Local Delivery of Sustainable Development

    —  This was a Ministerial working group between ODPM and DEFRA. It discussed the local delivery of sustainable development, including the definition of sustainable communities and the development of sustainable Community Strategies.

    —  This was a time-limited sub-group, which was scheduled to hold four meetings. The last meeting of the group was held earlier this month.

Sustainable Communities Inter-Departmental Officials Group

    —  This quarterly meeting is held between ODPM officials and officials from a wide range of Other Government Departments.

    —  The meeting is used to discuss the key programmes of the Sustainable Communities Plan and related work being done by other departments.


Sustainable Buildings Task Group

    —  In October of last year ODPM, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and DEFRA established the Sustainable Buildings Task Group which was tasked with identifying specific, cost-effective, improvements in the quality and environmental performance of buildings, which industry and Government could deliver.

    —  The Departments with membership of the Task Group at senior level were, ODPM, OTI, DEFRA, Her Majesty's Treasury (HMT) and the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). Secretariat function was provided by DEFRA.

Code for Sustainable Buildings

    —  The Senior Steering Group for the Code for Sustainable Buildings has members from ODPM and OGC on it.

    —  The official level project team includes members from ODPM, DTI, DEFRA and OGC.


    —  DEFRA and ODPM are commissioning joint research ("Sustainability Project") that is going to look at the effects of additional housing on sustainable communities.

    —  The project will be jointly funded by ODPM and DEFRA. However, the contract will be managed on a day to day basis by ODPM.

    —  The study will be led by a steering group comprising representatives from ODPM, DEFRA, Department for Transport (DfT), HMT and the English Regions Network.


    —  ODPM has held both formal and informal meetings with DEFRA, the Environment Agency (EA) and the National Urban Forestry Unit (NUFU), about the Pathfinders.

    —  ODPM are raising awareness amongst the Pathfinders about the services that both the EA and NUFU can offer.


National Centre

    —  The National Centre project team have met with colleagues from Department for Education and Skills, the Sector Skills Councils (CITB ConstructionSkills, AssetSkills, LANTRA the Sector Skills Council for the Environmental and Land-based Sector, E-Business, Skills for logistics), Home Office—Crime Reduction Centre, Cabinet Office—Public Sector Leadership Consortium and OPSR, National Centre for School Leadership, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Learning and Skills Council, UK Trade and Investment, DTI—Construction Unit, GO Regional Director's, Disability Rights Commission along with other professional and private sector groups.

November 2004

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