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Pathfinder Projects

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons the Government are demolishing homes in the Pathfinder project areas; and if he will publish the criteria used for such decisions. [17253]

Yvette Cooper: The nine pathfinders are working in parts of our northern cities and towns where three years ago the prices of houses fell well below their apparent worth. Those who could do so moved out. Homes were abandoned and some of the most disadvantaged in our society became trapped in neighbourhoods characterised by dereliction, crime, anti-social behaviour and poor services. This market collapse was an extreme manifestation of a wider problem of low demand which the Housing Market Renewal Fund addresses.

The Government are investing £1.2 billion up to March 2008 to tackle the mismatch of supply and demand in these areas, providing people with a choice of good quality housing fit for the 21st century and re-creating sustainable communities. Refurbishment, new build and some demolition are part of this approach as well as action with partners to improve economic and
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job prospect, education, crime and behaviour and health, tackle dereliction, provide high quality public space and capitalise on the rich heritage of many areas.

Each pathfinder has in place its own arrangements to assess options and appraise projects.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder schemes are permitted to make their minutes and papers available to hon. Members who represent pathfinder areas; and whether they are covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. [24255]

Yvette Cooper: The Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders are permitted to make their minutes and papers available to hon. Members who represent their pathfinder areas.

For Freedom of Information purposes the pathfinders should be considered part of the local authority which acts as its 'accountable body'. Therefore the legal duty to respond to an FOI request falls to the accountable body.


Mr. Letwin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the discretion of local authority planning committees to delegate decisions to unelected officers. [27322]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) regards the delegation of suitable decisions to officers as an effective way to improve timeliness of decision making, which is why ODPM encourages all local authorities to adopt a comprehensive system of delegation.

Decisions can only be delegated to officers by elected members and so they determine the terms on which a delegated agreement operates, the level of member involvement, and the circumstances in which an officer's delegated power to make a decision may not be exercised.

The LGA and ODPM have jointly published revised guidance on schemes of delegation called Delivering Delegation". Apart from re-affirming policy on delegation, the new document will give details on the types of decisions that can be delegated and best practice models of delegation schemes.

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will review planning policy guidance; and if he will make a statement. [24078]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on 11 July 2005, Official Report, column 810W.

Regional Fire Control Centres

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards establishing the West Midlands Regional Fire Control Centre; and if he will make a statement. [26841]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Good progress has been made on all aspects of the project. In August, Wolverhampton Business Park was chosen as the site for the West Midlands regional fire control centre, following a fair
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and transparent procurement process. The building has recently received full planning permission. The West Midlands Regional Management Board have indicated their willingness to set up a local authority company as the governing entity for the centre, subject to a full consultation on the detailed proposals. Meanwhile, the procurement for the technology/infrastructure services that will supply all the new regional controls is well under way, and should be completed by spring 2006.

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons the Outline Business Case for the Regional Fire Control Centres has not yet been published. [26842]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Fire Control Outline Business Case was published in January 2005, and is available on the project website at

Respect Unit

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 27 October 2005, Official Report, column 489W, on respect, which of the programmes listed are within the remit or responsibility of the Home Office. [24701]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Two of the four programmes listed in my earlier answer are ODPM programmes entirely and the Home Office have no remit or responsibility for them. The Safer and Stronger Communities Fund is a joint Home Office and ODPM programme, which also now incorporates the ODPM programme 'Cleaner, Safer, Greener' referred to in my earlier answer.

Self-invested Personal Pensions

Mr. Greenway: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to protect houses in rural areas from purchase as second homes by holders of self invested personal pensions. [24101]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not envisage that changes to self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) introduced by colleagues in the Treasury will have any significant effect on housing markets in either rural or urban areas. In July we
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launched the Affordable Rural Housing Commission and invited it to consider the evidence and reach consensus on the relevant issues around affordable housing needs in rural areas. It is likely that the Commission will wish to consider the positive and negative aspects of second homes. The Commission will report next year.

Smoke Alarms

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department plans to issue guidance to fire services on the need to ensure smoke alarms provided to deaf and hard of hearing people meet the British Standard BS 5446–3.2005. [26774]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Government is funding free smoke alarms for 1.25 million vulnerable households in England under the £25 million Home Fire Risk Check initiative over the period 2004–08. Many FRSs are fitting alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing under this initiative. Specific advice is already included in guidance prepared by the Chief Fire Officers Association. In summary, people who use hearing aids may be able to hear conventional interconnecting alarms, but if this is found not to be the case, specialist alarms should be fitted. We would expect all smoke alarms to meet appropriate British Standards.

Regeneration (North Northamptonshire)

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the potential for a merger between Catalyst Corby and North Northants Together. [19477]

Yvette Cooper: The Government believe that a merger between Catalyst Corby and North Northants Together would be beneficial to regeneration and sustainable growth in North Northamptonshire and has invited local partners to consider this. It would give a clear single voice to the area on growth and regeneration issues and strengthen delivery capacity for capital infrastructure projects.

The Government recently received the formal merger proposals from both bodies and are considering their response.