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20 Dec 2005 : Column 2662W—continued

Village Halls

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps are being taken to encourage the greater use of village halls; and what funding streams are available for this purpose. [38902]

Mr. Caborn: To date the lottery has awarded over £258 million to village and community halls. The Big Lottery Fund is building on this success and has recently announced that it will make £50 million available over three years through a community buildings programme to benefit projects across England. The new programme, to be launched in 2006, will focus on civil renewal as well as enhance community involvement and cohesion.
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Biodiversity (Planning Applications)

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will incorporate a question about biodiversity interests into the standard planning application form. [37570]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, English Nature and the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) to examine how the issue of biodiversity interests could be considered in the standard planning process.


Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many hectares in Northamptonshire have been used to grow biofuels in each year since 1997. [38124]

Mr. Morley: Detailed information on the end-use of potential biofuel crops is only available where farmers claim the Energy Aid payment. This was introduced in 2004 and 2826 ha of oilseed rape were planted on non set-aside land for biodiesel production in Northamptonshire in that year.

In addition, 36 ha of miscanthus in 2003 and 45 ha in 2004 were planted under the Energy Crops Scheme for the production of heat or electricity. There were no plantings under the scheme in Northamptonshire from 1997–2002.

Central Heating Installations (Pensioners)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many pensioners in the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency will be eligible for free installation of central heating announced in the pre-Budget report. [37739]

Mr. Morley: It was announced in the pre-Budget report that an additional £300 million would be made available to tackle fuel poverty across the UK.

In England, this means that an additional £250 million will be made available to boost the delivery of central heating measures to pensioner households, and particularly those on pension credit through the Warm Front Scheme.

In Middlesbrough, there are 8,400 pension credit claimants and in Redcar and Cleveland there are some 8,000 claimants 1 . Assistance from Warm Front is available for homeowners and tenants in the private sector, so a number of these claimants could be eligible for support from Warm Front.

Those not in receipt of a qualifying benefit at the time of application to Warm Front are offered a benefit entitlement check, which is designed to provide both the
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potential of increasing household income and to establish eligibility of households to benefit from measures under Warm Front.

Climate Change

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to announce the findings of the Climate Change Review; and if she will make a statement. [39051]

Mr. Morley: We are aiming to publish the revised Climate Change Programme well in advance of the Easter recess.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received regarding the climate change review; and whether she plans to make these findings public. [39052]

Mr. Morley: The review of the UK climate change programme was launched in September 2004. A consultation as part of the review was launched on 8 December 2004 at a stakeholder event. Around 300 written responses were received as a result.

IPA Energy Consulting was asked to complete an independent analysis of the responses. Their report can be found at the DEFRA website:

Coastal Erosion

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to ensure that the Environment Agency fulfills its contractual obligations to maintain the sea defences at Unit 20 of the Beachy Head to Selsey bill shoreline management plan. [37905]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency is not generally contractually bound to undertake sea defence works. There are instances where, historically, the Environment Agency's predecessors have entered into agreements with individuals or organisations regarding the maintenance of sea defences.

The first review of the Beachy Head to Selsey bill shoreline management plan (SMP) Unit 20 recommends a policy of managed re-alignment for the River Arun to Poole Place Groyne frontage, Littlehampton. It is proposed that this policy will enable the shape of the coastline to be realigned slightly to enable a more naturally functioning coastline to develop. The exact details of any realignment scheme, including the need for any secondary defences, will be developed in due course following agreement of the SMP.

There are historical agreements that cover the western 1.5km of this 3.5km frontage. These agreements relate to the maintenance of the shingle beach and groynes that were in place when the agreements were made. The Environment Agency has had dialogue with the landowner and is due to meet him in the new year to discuss the long-term plans for the frontage. The Environment Agency is also continuing with operations
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to maintain the shingle defence by recycling material along the frontage, and will undertake some work on the timber groynes early in 2006.

Damson Trees

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of damson trees in the UK in each of the last five years; and what steps she is taking to preserve them. [37444]

Jim Knight: Defra does not collect data on the number of damson trees in the UK, though the hectarage of plums is recorded annually within theOrchard Fruit Survey for England and Wales. As an important feature of certain rural landscapes, damson orchards have been targeted for restoration through funding under agri-environment schemes, including the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

Departmental Buildings

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of the Department's buildings are powered by renewable energy; and what plans she has to increase this proportion. [37958]

Jim Knight: Of the sites for which DEFRA and its Executive Agencies have a contractual responsibility for electricity supplies, 44 percent. are powered from renewable sources. This represented 52 percent. of the total electricity used in 2004–05, 83 percent. at DEFRA buildings and 48 percent. at buildings occupied by agencies.

At contract renewal, opportunities are sought to secure renewable supplies for further sites. We are also actively promoting self-generation of electricity at a number of our sites.

Departmental Consultants

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many civil servants in each grade have left her Department in each of the last three years to join consultancy firms; and which firm each joined. [37363]

Jim Knight: Staff leaving the Department are not required in all circumstances to state the organisation that they are expecting to join. However, civil servants are required to familiarise themselves with, and as appropriate abide by, the rules on the acceptance of outside appointments by Crown servants set out in the Civil Service Management Code. Therefore, civil servants may have to obtain approval before taking up certain types of employment within two years of leaving the service. Records of such requests for approval are not held electronically and therefore the information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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