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4 Jun 2007 : Column 188W—continued

We have made it clear that our ambition is to increase the supply of new homes in England to at least
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200,000 per annum by 2016; but, in the meantime, we are doing all we can to help people on modest incomes into housing. Since 2001 key workers have been one of our priority groups for housing assistance and we have now helped nearly 25,000 key workers into a home through our key worker housing programmes, the Starter Home Initiative and Key Worker Living.

For the purposes of Key Worker Living, a key worker is defined as someone employed by the public sector in a front-line role in health, education or community safety delivering an essential public service where there are serious recruitment and retention problems. Within this broad definition sponsor Government Departments and police and fire authorities specify the groups at which help should be targeted based on recruitment and retention issues in critical front-line services. Nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics are all eligible roles under the scheme which operates in London, south-east and east of England. So far we have helped 3,143 nurses, 5,129 teachers, 1,677 police officers, 109 firefighters and 209 paramedics under the Key Worker Living scheme. We are unable to provide this detailed breakdown of the key workers helped through the Starter Home Initiative but know that at least 3,895 health sector workers, 3,196 teachers and 1,321 police staff received assistance.

Key Worker Living is one element of the Government’s HomeBuy scheme which will expand the opportunity for home ownership to over a 120,000 households by 2010. We expect 30,000 of those helped through HomeBuy to be key workers.

Housing: Standards

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect of the Decent Homes Standard on leasehold charges on owners of former right to buy flats; and if she will make a statement. [129205]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the written statement given on 29 March 2007, Official Report, column 118WS.

Housing: Yorkshire and Humberside

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she proposes to make land available for affordable housing in the North Yorkshire National Park. [136718]

Yvette Cooper: Government policy is to improve affordability across the housing market. Local planning authorities have the key role in the delivery of affordable housing using all the tools available to them, including having an appropriate policy framework in a Development Plan.

In providing for affordable housing in rural communities, where opportunities for delivering affordable housing are more limited, the aim should be to deliver high quality housing that contributes to the creation and maintenance of sustainable rural communities in market towns and villages.

In line with Government guidance, the current North York Moors Local Plan includes an exceptions
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policy that enables the development of affordable housing on sites in villages which would not otherwise receive planning consent.

The emerging North York Moors Local Development Framework, in particular, the Core Strategy and Development Policies DPD that is currently at pre-submission stage, contains draft policies for improving the supply of affordable homes for local needs, including an exceptions policy.

Local Authorities: Land

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will extend the policy of allowing local authorities to sell land to local communities for £1 and receive extra funding to allow the Government to sell land to the local community for £1 on sites of local interest; and if she will consider the sale of Darwin House in Shrewsbury under such a policy. [140131]

Angela E. Smith: Central Government Departments may dispose of surplus assets on the open market at less than the best price reasonably obtainable. The procedure for this is set out in chapter 25 of Government Accounting, which states that parliamentary approval must be sought for gifts (that is, the difference between the price agreed and the best price reasonably obtainable) where the value exceeds £250,000.

Local authorities’ power to dispose of surplus assets at less than best consideration is governed by the General Disposal Consent 2003 under the Local Government Act 1972. This provides that they will not be required to seek specific consent from the Secretary of State for the disposal of land where the difference between the unrestricted value of the interest and the consideration accepted is less than £2 million, subject to specific circumstances.

In all cases both central and local government will need to demonstrate that the additional community benefits accruing from the disposal at less than best consideration outweigh the opportunity costs of not pursuing other options, including the capital receipt that would be obtained from open market sale.

In the case of Darwin House, the Valuation Office Agency is leasing the property in order to deliver a valuable public service so it is currently not surplus to requirements.

Local Government Finance: Coastal Areas

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans her Department has to provide for the additional social costs of higher than average aged populations of the larger coastal urban areas. [139666]

Mr. Woolas: Older peoples' social services are funded by general formula grant and from councils’ own revenues raised from council tax or fees and charges. We take account of the relative needs of different areas to provide older people's social services during the calculation of formula grant.

Within the calculation of formula grant, there is a relative needs formula for older people's social services. The resident population are the main driver of the
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formula with additional elements to take into account other factors related to need, including the number of very elderly people in each area.

The formula is calculated using data on the number of people aged 65 and over resident in each area, and pensioners living alone, over 65s in receipt of pension credit and attendance allowance, pensioners who live in rented accommodation and those aged 90 and over in each area.

We expect to update the data we use in the relative needs formulae for the 2008-09 settlement, where possible. This will ensure that the calculations reflect changes in demographic and other trends in each local authority.

Non-Domestic Rates

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she plans to take forward the recommendations in the Lyons Review of Local Government on exemptions and relief in relation to business rates. [139716]

Mr. Woolas: We are considering how best to take forward the review of exemptions and reliefs in light of Sir Michael's recommendations and will make an announcement in due course.

Non-Domestic Rates: Nurseries

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 25 April 2007, Official Report, column 1189W, if she will assess the effect of the level of the business rates incurred by (a) private day nurseries, (b) voluntary day nurseries, (c) nurseries located in schools and (d) Sure Start children's centres on their operation over the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [139715]

Mr. Woolas: The information requested is not held centrally.

Ordnance Survey

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what communication her Department had with the Chair of the Advisory Panel for Public Sector Information between 10 July 2006 and 20 February 2007 on the appeal made by Ordnance Survey against the findings of the Office of Public Sector Information in connection with the complaint made against them by Intelligent Addressing Limited. [139050]

Angela E. Smith: There was no communication between the Department and the Chair of the Advisory Panel for Public Sector Information (APPSI) on the complaint made between those dates.


Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what legislation will be required to establish (a) the new Infrastructure Planning Commission and (b) the other proposed
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reforms to the planning system following the White Paper Planning for a Sustainable Future. [139131]

Yvette Cooper: Primary and secondary legislation will be needed to establish an infrastructure planning commission, including its powers, functions and procedures, a single consent regime for nationally significant infrastructure, statutory requirements for national policy statements including consultation, for consultation during the development of a project and for other aspects considered in the White Paper (CM 7120). Primary and secondary legislation will also be needed to implement some aspects of the proposals for reform of the Town and Country Planning system, subject to the outcome of consultation.

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what remuneration she expects to allocate to the proposed planning commissioners; and when the template for the specific areas of expertise to be embodied in the proposed planning commission will be published. [139954]

Yvette Cooper: Remuneration for commissioners of the infrastructure planning commission will need to be commensurate with their standing, experience, expertise and time spent on commission business.

Paragraph 5.58 of the White Paper “Planning for a Sustainable Future” (Cmd 7120) sets out an illustrative range of fields of expertise on which we are currently consulting. We will listen to responses to the consultation and do not expect to publish more details until we have fully considered those responses.

Planning: Environment Protection

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment her Department has made of the consistency of the environmental standards for new homes set by local planning authorities. [138592]

Yvette Cooper: Local planning authority policies on environmental standards for new homes vary in terms of their scope, specific requirement and degree of prescription. There is also variation as to when, and how, local planning authorities seek to apply such policies. Some local planning authorities have identifiable policies on environmental standards in their adopted development plan, or are proposing such policies in draft plans. Others rely on supplementary planning guidance which does not form part of the plan.

In October 2006 Arup's, on behalf of English Partnerships, undertook a survey of 61 authorities in England (including regional planning bodies) in order to identify the prevalence of policies relating to the use of on-site renewable energy, waste recycling, use of sustainable materials or the use of specific standards like EcoHomes. This identified a wide variation of approaches across the sample. The report is available on English Partnerships' website.

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Public Buildings: Renewable Energy

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her policy is on the installation in (a) new and (b) existing local authority public buildings of energy-producing technology; and if she will make a statement. [139175]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 24 May 2007]: The Local Government White Paper published in October 2006 makes clear that all local authorities can and should be taking action to combat climate change, taking account of local circumstances and priorities. It sets out areas where local authorities can have an impact, for example on their own estate, which could include installing renewable energy and energy-producing technologies on new and existing local authority public buildings.

Public Lavatories: Disabled

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether guidelines are included in building regulations on the design of grab rails in disabled access toilets. [139778]

Angela E. Smith: Yes, Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings) includes in Section 5 (Sanitary accommodation in buildings other than dwellings) detailed guidance on the design of grab rails in accessible toilets for both wheelchair using and ambulant disabled people. The guidance is based on the recommendations of British Standard BS 8300 ‘Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people—Code of Practice’. This standard was based on research and user trials funded by this Department’s predecessors.


Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what input her Department has made to the joint departmental review of sub-national economic development and regeneration; and what the terms of reference are of the review. [139665]

Yvette Cooper: The review of sub-national economic development and regeneration is being carried out jointly by Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury and the Department for Trade and Industry. Officials have been working closely with their counterparts in those Departments to make progress across the review's remit. Communities and Local Government has, and continues to be, fully engaged with the review.

The review is focused on exploring the opportunities for releasing further the economic potential of English regions, cities and localities; and for responding more effectively to the ongoing challenge of tackling pockets of deprivation. Its terms of reference are available on the HM Treasury website at:

The Budget (pages 46 and 47) provided an update on the review's progress, including highlighting the areas
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for potential reform that it is considering. The Budget can be found on the HM Treasury website at:

Copies are available in the Library of the House. The review will report to Ministers in advance of the 2007 comprehensive spending review.

Regeneration: Coastal Areas

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how her Department plans to assess the effectiveness of the South East England regional development agency in its new lead role on a regional development agency network on sharing best practice in the regeneration of coastal towns including tourism development. [139674]

Mr. Woolas: Communities and Local Government and SEEDA will work together to share best practice on promoting the economic development of coastal towns and will monitor progress through regular dialogue with regional development agencies to inform the development of regional economic strategies.

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will undertake research to further the understanding of the common characteristics of factors affecting coastal towns. [139683]

Mr. Woolas: Officials from the Department took part in a conference on coastal towns hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry on 8 May. This looked at whether there are issues common to coastal towns that need to be addressed, and what is the best policy approach, if any, for tackling the perceived problems.

In the light of this, the Government will consider the need to examine further the evidence on the characteristics of coastal towns to help inform policy making. This position is set out in the Government response to the Communities and Local Government Committee report on coastal towns laid before the House on 18 May.

Revenue Support Grant

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made in her Department's review of day visitor indicators with reference to their future inclusion in the relative needs formula aspect of revenue support grant calculations. [139700]

Mr. Woolas: An indicator on the number of day visitors to a local authority's area is currently used in the Highways Maintenance and Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services (EPCS) blocks of the formula grant calculations. The indicators used in the grant formulae are currently being reviewed ahead of calculating the first three-year settlement for 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Communities and Local Government are currently exploring, in discussion with the Settlement Working Group (SWG), an alternative approach to give an
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indication of the attractiveness to day visitors of an area. The papers and minutes of SWG meetings can be found on the Department's web site at:

Following SWG discussions, there will be a period of public consultation on options for formula changes, which may include an option for this alternative indicator.

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