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27 Feb 2006 : Column 200W—continued

Sustainable Buildings

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the withdrawal by the Worldwide Fund for Nature from the Senior Steering Group for the Code for Sustainable Buildings. [38735]

Yvette Cooper: It was unfortunate that the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) withdrew from the Senior Steering Group for the Code for Sustainable Homes
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when they did, as WWF met with officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to discuss, among other things, the details of the code which is now under consultation.

Sustainable Communities

Anne Main: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what mechanisms he has put in place to communicate his policy on sustainable communities to other Government Departments; and what further steps he plans to take. [52268]

Jim Fitzpatrick: In delivering the ambitious vision set out in the Sustainable Communities Plan it has been critical to develop a close working partnership and clear lines of communication with other Government Departments. A number of on-going formal mechanisms exist including the Housing and Planning sub-committee of Cabinet, Housing and Planning (officials) group to support the sub-committee and an Inter-departmental Officials Group on Sustainable Communities. From time to time specific project committees are established to support priority policies for example the Barker Steering group included representation from HMT and Cabinet Office.

Anne Main: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer to Q53 in evidence to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and Regions Committee of 7 February 2006, what the evidential basis was for his statement (a) that architects, planners and local authorities do not talk to the Highways Agency and (b) that none of the professional bodies assesses issues in the context of sustainability. [52269]

Jim Fitzpatrick: There is a body of research, carried out over the past few years, that has highlighted how the lack of communication and partnerships between the stakeholders involved in the delivery of sustainable communities can result in poor urban environments. Key conclusions have emphasised that each party often sees their role in isolation rather than contributing to the delivery of sustainable communities. Examples of research, both directly commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and that from independent bodies, include Paving the way (ODPM and Cabe) 2002; Better Streets, Better Places" (ODPM and DfT) 2003; and Egan Review of Skills" (ODPM) 2004.

The Government, through the new Academy for Sustainable Communities, aims to address this weakness by working with key stakeholders, including professional bodies, to improve the processes and skill base ensuring that all parties are working together to support the development of sustainable communities.

In addition ODPM are also asking our delivery agencies and partners to ensure that they bring together these different disciplines so that for example the Highways Agency is represented on or has close links to the Growth areas local delivery bodies.

Swindon Borough Council

Mr. Wills: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to encourage senior representatives of
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Swindon Borough Council to hold regular public meetings to promote local dialogue on measures taken to address anti-social behaviour. [53883]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Respect programme sets out the Government's intention to empower local communities to challenge and tackle antisocial behaviour through greater awareness of the powers available to them.

We will ensure effective dialogue between local people and services by introducing regular and systematic face the people" briefing sessions, involving senior representation from the police and local authorities.

These sessions will provide an opportunity for communities to make clear their priorities and to hold those responsible for service delivery to account. They will also allow senior staff to engage the community in tackling local problems—including raising issues where they can take action to help combat antisocial behaviour.

We are also committed to rolling out neighbourhood policing nationwide—giving local people a greater say in how their area is policed and to introducing the 'community call for action' so that communities have a formal mechanism to hold service providers to account where delivery falls short of expected standards.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he has made changes to Planning Policy Guidance 8 relating to health concerns about mobile telephone masts since November 2003. [51212]

Yvette Cooper: The office has not made any changes to Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 since it was published in August 2001.

Thames Gateway

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many local planning authorities within the Thames Gateway have champions for the historic environment appointed within their management structures. [50170]

Yvette Cooper: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

English Heritage staff will, however, be joining the Thames Gateway Delivery Office in London Docklands shortly.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether all new power lines in the Thames Gateway are planned to be undergrounded. [51094]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not been made aware of any proposals for new power lines in the Thames Gateway.

Plans are under way to underground the existing power lines in the Olympic Park area.

The ODPM is in discussion with National Grid and EOF about the costs and benefits of undergrounding existing power lines in several of the other key development locations in the Gateway.
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Town and Country Planning Act

Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the operation of (a) Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, (b) the Town and Country Planning Appeals (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 2000, (c) the Town and Country Planning (Appeals) (Written Representations Procedure) (England) Regulations 2000 and (d) the Town and Country Planning (Hearings Procedure) (England) (Rules) 2000. [54304]

Yvette Cooper: The information is as follows.

(a) Section 1 of and Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 dealt with the licensing of public entertainment outside Greater London. The provisions were repealed by Schedule 6 to the Licensing Act 2003.

(b), (c), (d) These rules and regulations are part of a package of measures providing a useful framework to various planning and related appeals procedures. Their main purpose is to ensure that all the information, evidence and submissions needed to make a fully informed and timely appeal decision can be assembled in an orderly fashion to enable the appeal proceedings to operate smoothly. While they are generally operating satisfactorily, we are not complacent. There is still some room for further improvement, such as in complying with timetables for the production of proofs of evidence for inquiries and statements of common ground between the main parties and in providing realistic estimates of the time likely to be required to make submissions and the number of witnesses to be called. However, where a party fails to adhere to the timetables, there is power to disregard late representations. Moreover, if that failure is unreasonable and leads to another party incurring unnecessary expense, the power to award costs also provides an effective discipline in the case of hearings and inquiries. For its part, the Planning Inspectorate is actively managing improvements to its own performance in arranging hearing and inquiry dates in the face of a continuing high level and variety of casework which places conflicting demands on the available inspector resource.
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Valuation Office Agency

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 30 November 2005, Official Report, column 588W, on council tax revaluation, if he will list the working groups and committees that operated to prepare for the council tax revaluation in (a) England and (b) Wales. [48163]

Mr. Woolas: The working groups and committees within the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) that operated to prepare for the council tax revaluations were set up in accordance with recognised programme management methodology. Thus for the revaluation in England a programme board oversaw the work of five constituent projects, each having its own project board. The projects covered data; valuations; inquiries, appeals and list maintenance; resources; and information technology. For the revaluation in Wales, there was a single project and project board dealing with all aspects.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate (a) his Department and (b) the Valuation Office Agency made of the average (i) council tax bill and (ii) business rates bill of an average composite hereditament in the last year for which estimates are available. [51062]

Mr. Woolas: None.

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