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9 Oct 2006 : Column 225W—continued

Right to Roam

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research
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his Department is undertaking into the environmental impact of a general right to roam on coastal areas, with particular reference to wetlands. [90224]

Barry Gardiner: English Nature has carried out a strategic review of the environmental impacts of pedestrian access on nature conservation interests, including wetlands, to ensure that each of the options under consideration for improving public access to the coast meets the tests set out in the Habitat Regulations 1994. Its advice will be included as part of Natural England’s report to DEFRA.

Rural Payments Agency

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration his Department is giving to issuing a set of maps containing all the land farmed as of 15 May 2006 to all farmers to enable them to cross reference their own records with those of the Rural Payments Agency. [92259]

Barry Gardiner: All farmers receive a set of maps when their land is registered with the Rural Payments Agency. In addition, when a boundary change is notified, a revised map for the land parcel in question is issued. If land transfers are notified to the Rural Payments Agency on a RLE1 form a revised set of maps showing the additional land is also supplied.

There are currently no plans to issue a new set of maps to all farmers for land farmed as of 15 May 2006.

Rural Watercourses

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how much his Department has spent on the maintenance of rural watercourses in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement; [89662]

(2)what steps he is taking to ensure proper maintenance of rural watercourses; and if he will make a statement: [89663]

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the economic and social significance to rural communities of watercourses; and if he will make a statement. [89667]

Ian Pearson: The primary responsibility for maintenance of all watercourses rests with the relevant riparian owner (a landowner with a frontage along a watercourse).

In England, the Environment Agency (EA) is the principal flood risk management operating authority with permissive powers for the maintenance of watercourses designated as ‘main river’. The EA has assumed responsibility for some 1,800 additional watercourse lengths transferred from other operating authorities over the last three years.

DEFRA is providing £413 million in grant in aid this year to fund the EA's flood risk management activities, which includes capital improvement projects, maintenance and operation of existing infrastructure, and associated activities such as flood warning and public awareness campaigns. The EA will also spend £53.7 million received from local levy, Internal
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Drainage Board charges, General Drainage Charges and other income. This figure includes £8.7 million planned use of balances. The total funding for 2006-07 is £466.7 million. This is targeted according to flood risk, rather than whether a watercourse is in an urban or rural area.

The EA uses the National Flood and Coastal Defence Database (NFCDD) to monitor the condition of assets, and reviews progress on a quarterly basis. A nationally consistent method of classifying asset condition has been shared with other operating authorities. These other operating authorities are required to use NFCDD to record details of the assets that they manage.

Expenditure on the maintenance of watercourses is not held centrally and we could not seek to gather this information without incurring disproportionate cost. It is also the case that maintenance and capital works are not generally classified by rural or urban location and often the distinction will not be clear.

Economic considerations are integral to the implementation of the Water Framework directive, for which the EA is the competent authority in England and Wales. This explicitly requires economic considerations and social issues to be considered and taken into account when setting water management objectives. The Collaborative Research Programme is developing methodologies for ensuring a balance between the environmental, social and economic concerns during river basin planning decisions which are part of the Framework.

‘Making Space for Water’, our new cross-Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management, presents an approach that embeds the three pillars of sustainable development, and extends our risk management tools by expanding our flood warning and flood awareness activities. The strategy encourages measures to improve resistance and resilience to flooding, including scoping work on the development and delivery of a pilot on direct aid to individuals. The document is available on the DEFRA website at:

Sea Fish Industry Authority

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff there were in the Sea Fish Industry Authority in each of the past five years. [89809]

Mr. Bradshaw: The following table shows the number of staff employed by the Sea Fish Industry Authority as at 31 March in each of the past five years.

Number of staff











Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a
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statement on future projected staffing levels at the Sea Fish Industry Authority. [89810]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Sea Fish Industry Authority has recently consulted on its strategic direction and has a restructuring programme in hand. This includes staffing changes (as mentioned in the Annual Report 2005-06 that was laid before Parliament on Wednesday 5 July 2006). The authority is in addition developing a costed forward work programme, on which it will formally consult. This will address issues such as future projected staffing levels.

Sewerage System (London)

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what representations he has received, and when, from the Mayor of London regarding investment to modernise London’s sewerage system; [91812]

(2) when he expects to reach a decision regarding the proposed Tideway sewerage scheme; [91813]

(3) how much sewage has entered the River Thames via storm overflows in each month since 2003; [91814]

(4) what measures are in place to assess the amount of sewage entering the River Thames via storm overflows. [91815]

Ian Pearson: The Department has received two letters (15 November 2004 and 20 June 2006) from the Mayor of London which raised the issue of funding for the London sewerage system.

I expect to decide on a scheme to limit pollution from some of the sewer overflows in early 2007. This will then be taken forward for planning and funding applications.

The Department has already been involved in decisions to address the issue of storm overflows at three London sewage treatment works. As a result, several major schemes, involving substantial expenditure, are planned through Thames Water over the next eight years, to significantly increase the secondary treatment capacity of these works (Beckton, Crossness and Mogden). These schemes will reduce overflow discharges, thereby protecting the fish species and environment of the River Thames.

It is estimated that the total annual overflow discharges from the sewers and the sewage treatment works are around 50 million cubic metres. It is calculated that 32 million cubic metres is discharged from the sewer overflows, and 20 million cubic metres from the sewage treatment works (Crossness and Mogden). As aforementioned, work is in hand to significantly reduce overflow discharges from these sewage treatment works.

For the monthly calculated volumes of untreated sewage discharged to the Thames from the sewer overflows from January 2001 to October 2004, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 15 December 2004, Official Report, column 1112W. The calculated monthly volumes of untreated sewage discharged to the Thames Tideway from sewer overflows from 2004 to October 2006 are as follows. It is estimated that these
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volumes represent 60 per cent. of the total discharged from London’s combined drainage system at these times.

Monthly discharges from storm water overflows to the estuarine Thames from 2004 to October 2006
Cubic metres
2004 2005 2006

















































For January to October 2004 the volumes in the table are as in the answer given on 15 December 2004, Official Report, column 1112W. November 2004 in the table represents a more up-to-date figure than that given in the answer of 15 December 2004.

Volumes are calculated from the pumping records of the five largest pumping stations during wet weather. The calculation is the duration of spill events multiplied by the pumping rate of each of the pumping stations.

Overflow discharges from the sewers are calculated from wet weather pumping records of the five largest pumping stations, and an estimate of the wet weather discharges from the other overflows. Flow monitoring at the sewage treatment works provide measurements of their overflow discharges.

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment his Department has made of the public health risk posed by sewage entering the River Thames; [92112]

(2) what recent estimates his Department has made of the number of fish killed by sewage entering the River Thames; and what assessment the Department has made of the broader environmental impact of such sewage. [92113]

Ian Pearson: Public health risk, fish kills and the broader environmental impacts of overflow discharges of sewage entering the Thames have been assessed by the Environment Agency in the development of the objectives for the Thames Tideway Strategic Study. The Steering Group Report, published in February 2005, provides the information and is available from the Thames Tideway Strategic Study website at

The Environment Agency continues to consider and assess these issues as part of the options assessment work, led by Thames Water, that I announced on 27 July 2006.

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Special Protection Areas

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 on special protection areas. [89636]

Barry Gardiner: A number of reports have been commissioned by English Nature to look at the ways in which increased access and disturbance may have affected sensitive species of breeding birds within special protection areas. The cumulative effect of these reports is to show that the impacts from increased access and recreational activities vary between species, habitats and areas. It was also recognised that it is still too early to be able to quantify these impacts on habitats.

Although there are concerns about the recreational impacts on breeding and wintering bird populations, it is not yet known whether the access provisions within the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 have led to, or will cause, adverse affects on special protection areas. Further research and monitoring is required to provide a clear assessment of the overall effect of the increased level of access and disturbance in special protection areas which were previously considered not to be at risk.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) district and (b) unitary councils are in each special protection area in England. [89792]

Barry Gardiner: The information requested is set out in the tables placed in the Library, and is correct as of 22 September 2006.

Sugar Beet

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will estimate (a) the average amount of compensation under the farm payments scheme which will be paid to farmers who cease growing sugar beet and (b) the number of farmers he expects to stop growing sugar beet in (i) 2007, (ii) 2008 and (iii) 2009. [89192]

Barry Gardiner: The reform of the EU sugar regime is designed to favour efficiency and allow sugar growers and processors to take their own commercial decisions. The UK has one of the more efficient sugar industries in the EU. The Government, therefore, expect some redistribution of sugar production within the UK over the next three years, but little net change.

On 22 September, my noble Friend the Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food announced the detail of how almost £500 million of additional support arising from the sugar reform will be incorporated within the English model of the single payment scheme (SPS) over the next seven years. In particular, he confirmed that special arrangements will apply so that, among other things, all the support available in 2006 will be added to the value of entitlements held by UK growers on the
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basis of their contracted tonnage for quota sugar, for the 2005-06 marketing year. Individual business decisions will determine whether those concerned retain their entitlements or grow sugar beet in subsequent years. It is not, therefore, possible to make meaningful estimates of the sort the hon. Member asks about.

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