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Register of Home Condition Reports

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his estimate is of the median cost of a Home Condition Report. [66775]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The cost of a full Home Condition Report (HCR) will be set by the market. The Homebuyers Survey and Valuation, which is similar in content, currently costs £400 on average (or £484.85 including VAT). We expect competition in the market to ensure that costs are held down.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many court orders have been issued for the repossession of homes in each year since 1997, broken down by local authority area. [89517]

Ms Harman: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The civil procedure rules state that all claims for the repossession of land must be commenced in the district in which the land is situated. However, county courts’ jurisdictions are not coterminous with borough boundaries, and therefore any single court’s repossession actions are likely to relate to homes in a number of different boroughs.

These figures do not indicate how many houses have been repossessed through the courts, since not all the orders will have resulted in the issue and execution of warrants of possession.

Spatial Addressing Infrastructure Project

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the main obstacles are to her Department’s agreeing the National Spatial Addressing Infrastructure project; and what prospects there are for an agreement. [88081]

Mr. Woolas: The proposed agreement involves a financial transfer between the partners and discussions are ongoing.

Special Protection Areas

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether local authorities can require developers wishing to develop inside a special protection area (SPA) and its radius to provide land in mitigation for that development and its notional impact on the SPA. [87345]

Yvette Cooper: Development which has an adverse effect on the integrity of an SPA, and which is not directly connected with or necessary to the
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management of the site, needs to be in accordance with Regulations 48 and 49 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. The regulations transpose the provision of the EC Habitats Directive into UK law.

Where development is permitted the Secretary of State must secure that any necessary compensatory measures are taken to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. One way of doing this could be through the provision of land in mitigation. Further guidance is provided in “Government Circular: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation—Statutory Obligations and Their Impact Within The Planning System Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Circular 06/2005, Department for Food and Rural Affairs Circular 01/2005”.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment the Government have made of the effect of special protection areas status on (a) the viability of the provision of affordable housing, (b) the rate of new development and house building and (c) the construction industry in the area and its vicinity. [87352]

Yvette Cooper: Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the EU Birds Directive and receive statutory protection under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994. ECJ case law confirms that member states are not permitted to take economic factors into account when classifying SPAs or defining their boundaries. The regulations set out the way in which SPAs should be protected, including how the implications of new developments should be considered.

The Government are working with stakeholders—including the construction industry—to consider and address the effects of Special Protection Areas for the continuing delivery of housing.

For example, in the south-east a range of activities are in hand to facilitate development around the Thames Basin Heaths SPA. English Nature has published a draft Thames Basin Heaths Delivery Plan, designed to provide a means of mitigating the potential adverse effects of increased housing, and the Government Office for the South East (GOSE) is working with them, local authorities, developers and others to explore the practicalities and flexibilities in the delivery plan approach. The delivery plan, along with other evidence, will be considered at the Examination in Public of the South East Plan in November. The plan is due to be adopted in 2008 and will set a regional spatial strategy for the south east region with strategic policies on the SPA which will inform local councils’ local development frameworks.

GOSE, English Nature and others are also working with a number of local planning authorities to develop ‘mini-plans’—area-specific packages of measures to allow development in accordance with the Birds and Habitats Directives in the short to medium term.

Supporting People Programme

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will meet
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Stoke-on-Trent Council to discuss proposals to make the Supporting People programme a statutory housing support service. [92359]

Mr. Woolas: I would be pleased to meet with a delegation from Stoke-on-Trent Council to discuss this issue.

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received from local councils in respect of the basis on which the Supporting People programme has been calculated. [92360]

Mr. Woolas: The consultation on the development of a strategy for the Supporting People programme, which concluded on 28 February 2006, asked for views on how Government should approach the calculation of grant allocations for individual Supporting People authorities. We received 1,130 responses, including 166 from local councils, as well as responses from consultation events and representations made outside this process. A summary of those responses was published on 11 July 2006 and is available on our Supporting People website—

As I announced on 19 July 2006, Official Report, columns 22-23WS, those responses were taken into account in determining our approach to Supporting People allocations for 2007-08, and further analysis of those responses will be carried out with a view to taking forward work on how we can distribute future funding based on need.

Sustainable Communities Conference

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the net cost was to public funds of the 2006 Sustainable Communities Conference organised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. [86796]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister did not organise a 2006 Sustainable Communities Conference. The Local Government Association organised a Sustainable Communities Conference in Birmingham, 13-15 February 2006 and officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government did attend.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance she has issued to local authorities on defining close proximity to residential areas and schools when considering planning applications for mobile telephone masts. [89331]

Meg Munn: Mobile phone mast development in residential areas is subject to the normal telecommunications planning arrangements in place throughout England, set out in Part 24 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO). These arrangements were significantly strengthened in 2001 and include improved requirements for consulting local people about mast proposals. The changes to the
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GPDO were underpinned by revised guidance, set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 8, Telecommunications.

The Stewart Report on Mobile Phones and Health, published in May 2000, did not recommend that the erection of mobile phone masts should be restricted in residential areas and we have no plans to introduce any such restrictions.

It did not recommend that the erection of masts on or near schools should be prohibited.

Thames Gateway

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the merits of establishing a regional observatory for the Thames Gateway, tasked to develop, collect and maintain key statistics that will illustrate the extent to which social, environmental and economic policy objectives are being achieved. [88602]

Yvette Cooper: The Department is developing, in consultation with local delivery partners, a database of the social, environmental and economic characteristics of the Gateway and of different local areas within the Gateway.

We have also funded the development of the Thames Gateway Knowledge Platform. A database that complements our own proposals allows users to obtain various datasets and statistics for the areas that they are interested in within the Gateway. This database can be used to monitor various social, environmental and economic trends at a local level and can be found at

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of whether the local planning authorities in the Thames Gateway are (a) making a realistic assessment of the overall quantity of employment land that is likely to be needed across the area and (b) developing programmes to oversee the reallocation of excessive land for other purposes, including housing. [88604]

Yvette Cooper: It is the role of regional and local planning authorities, in preparing and reviewing their development plans, to make a realistic assessment of the overall quantity of employment land that is likely to be needed in their area, in the context of national planning policy.

Planning Policy Guidance 4: Industrial, commercial development and small firms, requires planning authorities to ensure that there is a sufficient quantity and variety of land available for industry and commerce, which is readily capable of development and well-served by infrastructure.

Planning Policy Guidance note 3: Housing (PPG3), published in March 2000, asks local planning authorities to review their non-housing allocations of land (including employment land), when reviewing their development plan and consider whether some of this land might better be used for housing or mixed use developments. The PPG3 update “Supporting the Delivery of New Housing”, published in January 2005, added a new paragraph to PPG3. This advocates the re-use of land allocated for industrial and commercial
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use, where it would be better used for housing and mixed use development unless there is a realistic prospect of the allocation being taken up for its stated use in the plan period, or that its development for housing would undermine regional and local strategies for housing, economic development and regeneration.

To assist planning authorities in assessing the overall demand and supply of employment land, the Government published ‘Employment Land Reviews: Guidance Note’ (December 2004). This guidance seeks to help planning authorities assess the suitability of sites to accommodate employment development, to help them protect the best sites in the face of competition from higher value uses and to help them identify those sites which are no longer needed for employment development and which can be made available for other uses.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will encourage local planning authorities in the Thames Gateway to create a design advisory panel with statutory consultee status which would be required to offer an opinion on the design quality of significant development proposals, including at the planning stage. [88730]

Yvette Cooper: The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is the Government's statutory adviser on architecture, urban design and public space. CABE is a non-statutory consultee in the planning process.

The Department funds CABE to provide a free Design Review service to disseminate best practice to developers, design teams and planning authorities in England. This service offers expert independent assessment of proposed schemes at an early stage of the planning process. Local planning authorities are encouraged to submit schemes to be reviewed if they are strategic because of their scale or location, or if they set standards for future development.

Since January 2004, CABE's Design Review programme has handled over 100 cases from the Thames Gateway local authorities, including several schemes of strategic importance such as Barking Riverside and The Warren at Woolwich Arsenal.

The Thames Gateway Forum is looking at other ways to strengthen design in the gateway.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will undertake an audit of the design skills available among local authorities in the Thames Gateway and encourage the regional centres of excellence to address shortcomings that are identified. [88731]

Yvette Cooper: The Department engages with a number of organisations in the Thames Gateway on design issues, including Regional Centres of Excellence, Essex Design Initiative, Kent Architecture, Urban Design London and the Greater London Authorities Architecture and Urbanism Unit. Together, these bodies have considered the existing design skills of local authorities and have in place a range of activities, including guidance and training, to address gaps.

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DCLG is also funding specific initiatives through the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC). CABE has established a Design Task Group for the Growth Areas, which is a learning network open to individuals in local authorities and local delivery vehicles across the four growth areas. The ASC is establishing a number of “Learning Laboratories” with Regional Centres of Excellence, including one with Inspire East to focus on the Thames Gateway South Essex sub region around Basildon. This will focus on auditing existing skills and identifying and addressing gaps to improve design quality in the area.

As in the rest of England, the majority of local authorities in the Thames Gateway now have a dedicated design champion to promote better quality design in the built environment.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if the Government will examine the 2002 Density Direction with a view to raising the intervention threshold in the Thames Gateway. [88738]

Yvette Cooper: The 2005 Density Direction provides that development on sites of one hectare or more, or where residential density is either not provided in the application or 30 dwellings per hectare or less, must be notified to the Secretary of State and may be called in. The Department will keep the thresholds under review in the context of finalising planning guidance statement PPS3 (Housing).

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on population density in the Thames Gateway area. [89251]

Yvette Cooper: There have been no specific representations received on population densities in the Thames Gateway area.

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to increase (a) population density and (b) house-building programmes in the Thames Gateway area; and if she will make a statement. [89252]

Yvette Cooper: A total of 120,000 new homes and 180,000 new jobs are proposed for the Thames Gateway, predominantly on brownfield land. Current guidance for new housing developments states that local planning authorities are to avoid inefficient development of less than 30 dwellings per hectare (dph), encourage developments of between 30 and 50 dph, and seek greater intensity of development at places with good public transport accessibility.

We will be publishing an interim Strategic Framework document later this year which will set out the current position of the Gateway programme and state the next steps.

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many units of residential accommodation were constructed in the
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Thames Gateway in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [89321]

Yvette Cooper: Before 2001-02 information on new build dwellings was available by local authority only. Figures more specific to the Gateway boundary are available for the years 2001-02 to 2004-05. Figures for the period 2005-06 will be available shortly. The Thames Gateway boundary differs from local authority boundaries as it was established to specifically include those areas that contain a high proportion of brownfield land rather than follow the administrative boundary line of the local authorities concerned. The local authority boundaries include for example house building in the rest of Kent and the rest of Essex even where those areas are not part of the Thames Gateway.




















(1 )Local authority only
(2 )More specific to the Gateway boundary
Source for the local authority only figures:
P2 house building return from local authorities and National House Building Council

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