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21 May 2007 : Column 1097W—continued

Council Tax

Mr. Flello: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the Government have plans to enable local authorities to give a discount to council tax payers who pay their annual charge upfront as a lump sum. [138593]

Mr. Woolas: Local authorities already have powers under Section 13 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to offer a local council tax discount. However, this power is discretionary and it is for the local authority to decide how to use it.

Council Tax: Armed Forces

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects discussions between her Department and the Ministry of Defence on exemption from council tax for members of the armed forces serving overseas to conclude. [137909]


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Mr. Woolas: Discussions between the Department and the Ministry of Defence on providing support for the council tax costs in England of service personnel on operations abroad are ongoing. I expect them to be concluded shortly.

Council Tax: Tax Rates and Bands

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many changes were made to council tax bandings for individual properties as a result of (a) a material increase in the value of the dwelling followed by the sale of the property, (b) a material increase in the value of the dwelling without any sale, (c) an increase or decrease in the domestic use of a composite hereditament and (d) the property being originally allocated to the wrong value band in the last year for which figures are available. [127049]

Ruth Kelly: In the year to 31 March 2007 there were 12,118 changes to council tax bandings following the sale of a property to reflect a “material increase” in value resulting from property improvements made prior to the sale date. No changes were made to reflect a “material increase” without any sale as this is prohibited by legislation. The number of changes as a result of an increase or decrease in the domestic use of a composite hereditament or the property being originally allocated to the wrong value band could be ascertained only at disproportionate cost.

Departments: Consultants

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent on consultants as a result of the Housing Market Renewal scheme in each of the last five years. [133746]

Yvette Cooper: Figures on expenditure on external advice including consultancy are not held centrally. The pathfinders decide on how to spend their budgets including how much to spend through staff they employ directly and how much to spend through external contracts depending on the skills required. External contracts included masterplanning and feasibility studies (approximately 40 per cent. of the overall spend), research and housing market intelligence studies (approximately 20 per cent.), and community engagement and consultation (approximately 10 per cent.). The total Housing Market Renewal Fund spend over the five year period was £888 million. The following table includes the amount the pathfinders estimate has been spent on such external contracts.

Financial year Estimated HMRF external contracts (£ million)

2002-03

0.46

2003-04

4.19

2004-05

12.00

2005-06

14.86

2006-07

11.64

Total for 2002-07

43.15


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Departments: Disciplinary Proceedings

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many grievance procedures have been initiated in her Department in the last 12 months. [135169]

Angela E. Smith: Eight formal grievances have been raised in the Department for Communities and Local Government (and the predecessor Department the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister) during the last 12 months (for the period April 2006 to March 2007).

Departments: Sexual Harassment

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many complaints of sexual harassment have been investigated in her Department in the last 12 months; and how many complaints have been upheld. [135365]

Angela E. Smith: There have been no formal complaints of sexual harassment raised in the Department for Communities and Local Government (and the predecessor Department, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) during the last 12 months (for the period April 2006 to March 2007).

Fire Services: Armed Forces

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many Green Goddess emergency fire appliances are available for use in emergencies. [137879]

Angela E. Smith: There are no Green Goddess fire appliances available for use in emergencies. These vehicles date from the 1950s, and do not meet performance standards that are expected in 2007. In consequence, they have been phased out of operational use across the UK. It is the responsibility of individual fire and rescue authorities to make their own arrangements for the provision of emergency cover. This includes the supply of modern appliances and equipment that are able to meet current expectations.

Green Roofs

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what research her Department and its predecessors have sponsored into green roofs since May 1997. [137146]

Angela E. Smith: I am not aware of any research that the Department and its predecessor Departments have sponsored into green roofs since May 1997. However I understand that English Nature carried out studies into green roofs in 2002-03 “Green Roofs: their existing status and potential for conserving biodiversity in urban areas”—English Nature Report 498. A copy of the report can be found on their website at:


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Green Belt

Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her policy is on building on the green belt in (a) England and (b) Oxfordshire. [138178]

Yvette Cooper: National planning policies on green belts are set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 2. Strict planning controls on green belt land are in place and there is a general presumption against inappropriate development within green belts. Decisions on individual planning applications for development in the green belt are a matter for the local planning authority.

The designation and review of green belt boundaries in Oxfordshire, within the national policy framework set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 2, is the responsibility of planning authorities, through the development plan process.

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what definition of “significant” her Department uses in the context of proposals for significant development in the green belt where the Secretary of State will consider recovery of planning appeals. [134852]

Yvette Cooper: Each case is considered on its merits.

HomeBuy Schemes

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans there are to expand the HomeBuy schemes. [133814]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 25 April 2007]: We are committed to helping 120,000 households into low cost home ownership between 2005 and 2010, an increase of 20,000 on our previous target.

The Government’s HomeBuy programme is made up of 3 schemes: New Build HomeBuy, Social HomeBuy and Open Market HomeBuy. Social and Open Market HomeBuy are both pilots which will run to March 2008. Along with New Build HomeBuy, we are planning to continue both schemes into 2008-11 and will be developing them further, building on experience of the pilots.

On 21 March the Government announced the launch of a Competition later this year for new and existing lenders to join in a 2008-11 round of expanded Open Market HomeBuy. The Government will be looking for products which offer competitive terms and value for money as well as new and innovative mechanisms to widen the availability of shared equity products.

Homelessness: Hostels

Mr. Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many single homeless people are in hostel accommodation in England. [136535]

Yvette Cooper: The information requested is not held centrally.


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Housing Act 2004

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the cost to business of implementing section 257 of the Housing Act 2004. [134662]

Yvette Cooper: The Department has made no separate assessment of the cost to business of applying Part 2 (licensing provisions) of the Housing Act to those property types defined in section 257 of the Housing Act 2004. The power to license any types of buildings falling within the scope of section 257 will be discretionary and could only be used where specific management problems are identified with the types of building to which a licensing scheme is intended to apply.

Housing: Barnet

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much is being awarded to the London borough of Barnet for the regional housing allocation 2007, broken down by category of funding; how many homes in each category in Barnet are expected to receive such funding; and if she will make a statement. [136652]

Yvette Cooper: In 2007-08 the London borough of Barnet is receiving £2,128,000 from the regional housing pot in the form of supported capital expenditure (revenue) for decent homes work on its own stock. At the start of January 2006 there were 4,716 non-decent local authority properties in Barnet.

In addition to this, in 2007-08 capital grant funding from the regional housing pot has been paid to the London borough of Barnet as lead authority on behalf of the North London Sub-Regional Housing Partnership. The award of grant breaks down as follows:

A share of this sub-regional funding will be spent in Barnet but it is not yet possible to say how much as the funding is allocated within the sub-region by the participating boroughs.

Housing: Construction

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what resource is available to local residents when a residential building project is left uncompleted to the detriment of the surrounding area to force the owners (a) to complete the project and (b) to pass it on to an organisation willing to do so. [136663]

Yvette Cooper: Section 94 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 gives local planning authorities the power to serve a completion notice on the owner/occupier/developer of land where an approved development has been started, but work has been interrupted or left unfinished and where there appears
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to be no prospect of completion within a reasonable period. If the development is not completed within the time specified in the notice (no less than 12 months after the notice takes effect), then the planning permission will cease to have effect in relation to the development referred to in the completion notice that has not been carried out.

Development must normally be started within three years of the granted planning permission and a completion notice cannot be served until this period has expired; a completion notice does not take effect unless and until it is confirmed by the Secretary of State.

Completion notices enable local authorities to seek to ensure that development projects with planning permission are not just started but finished. Local planning authorities also have powers under section 97 and section 102 of the 1990 Act to make an Order revoking planning permission, prior to it being implemented, where they consider it expedient to do so, or to make an order requiring that any use of land shall be discontinued or continued subject to conditions, or that any buildings or works shall be altered or removed. Such orders must usually be confirmed by the Secretary of State.

Difficulties often arise if a developer experiences financial problems in implementing a project, and a completion notice in these circumstances may be of limited practical effect. Much depends on the land ownership position as to whether an uncompleted project is transferred to another developer.

Housing: Hampshire

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what level of housing need was recorded in the most recent strategy statement of each local housing authority in Hampshire. [135918]

Yvette Cooper: The assessment of housing need, for both market and affordable housing, is complex. The way in which this is presented in local housing strategies and the amount of information provided varies considerably across authorities. It is not possible to adequately summarise this for all Hampshire authorities without incurring disproportionate cost.

Housing: Newcastle upon Tyne

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the impact of the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder scheme on the housing market in Newcastle. [135639]

Yvette Cooper: To complement pathfinders' own evaluation work and the scrutiny of the Audit Commission, the Department has commissioned an independent national evaluation of the Housing Market Renewal programme. The evaluation baseline report, published in March 2007, revealed that “considerable progress” has been made by Bridging Newcastle Gateshead (BNG).


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Housing: Noise

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what constitutes a significant effect on an occupant’s health due to structural noise issues when applying the new Housing Health and Safety Rating regime; and if she will make a statement. [136363]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 8 May 2007]: The Housing Health and Safety Rating System Operating Guidance sets out a number of adverse health effects which excess noise can cause.

The best understood effects of noise are psychological disturbances and physiological changes resulting from annoyance and sleep disturbance. Typical health effects are stress responses, sleep disorders and lack of concentration. Headaches, anxiety and irritability are also associated with noise induced stress, and the effects of sleep disturbance may affect the mood the following day.

Housing: Parking

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the impact of planning guidelines for building new properties with one and a half car spaces on levels of congestion in neighbouring roads; and if she will make a statement. [136751]

Yvette Cooper: Planning Policy Statement 3: “Housing”, published last November, gives local authorities the responsibility for deciding their policies for residential car-parking, taking account of expected levels of car ownership, the importance of promoting good design, and the need to use land efficiently. The guidance in Planning Policy Guidance Note 3, “Housing” which advocated residential parking standards of no more than 1.5 off-street spaces per average dwelling has been cancelled.


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