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26 Jun 2007 : Column 648W—continued


Peterborough City Council: Grants

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if officials from her Department will meet Peterborough city council in the near future to discuss grant funding; and if she will make a statement. [144290]


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Mr. Woolas: We have been reviewing, with local government, a number of the formulae used to distribute grant to local authorities and will be undertaking a full consultation exercise over the summer, when all local authorities will have full opportunity to respond to our proposals.

Planning Inspectorate: Consultants

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much the Planning Inspectorate spent on consultants (excluding the cost of consultant inspectors) in each of the last four years; and what such consultants were tasked to work on. [144717]

Yvette Cooper: The Planning Inspectorate’s spend on external advice and contracts over the last four financial years has been:

Total (£)

2003-04

2,778,726

2004-05

2,824,952

2005-06

3,380,614

2006-07

1,604,379


This included:

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures the Planning Inspectorate has in place to achieve value for money in the procurement of external consultants undertaken by the agency’s procurement unit. [144720]

Yvette Cooper: The Planning Inspectorate has a dedicated procurement unit and all consultancy contracts are handled within that unit. In the drive to deliver value for money close attention is paid to standard best practice procurement procedures, from clear specification through to effective contract management. Extensive use is also made of the framework contracts managed by the Office of Government Commerce to deliver both price and process savings.

Planning Policy Statement 3: Regulatory Impact Assessments

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reasons the regulatory impact assessment for Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) was published after PPS3 came into effect. [145155]

Yvette Cooper: The Department produced a partial regulatory impact assessment as part of the consultation paper on a new Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) “Housing”, which we published in December 2005.


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Subsequently, we considered those consultation responses made in respect to the partial assessment to inform the final regulatory impact assessment. This analysis is set out in the ‘Consultation on Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3)—A summary of responses and key issues’, which we published alongside final PPS3 in November 2006.

While a regulatory impact assessment had been produced at the time of launching PPS3, unfortunately, this was not published until May 2007.

Planning: Reform

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her timetable is for the (a) consultation and (b) legislation on reform of the planning system, following the publication of the Planning White Paper. [145138]

Yvette Cooper: The Government are consulting on some key proposals and other issues in the White Paper ‘Planning for a Sustainable Future’ (Cm7120) and four associated consultation papers on: planning performance agreements; planning fees; changes to permitted development rights for householders; and improving the appeal process. The closing date for responses is August 17 2007. Paragraphs 10.15 and 10.16 of the White Paper describe further consultations proposed during 2007 and 2008.

By summer 2007 we will consult on a new draft national Planning Policy Statement ‘Planning for Economic Development’, proposals to replace the need and impact tests with a new test, and proposals to reduce the Secretary of State's involvement in planning cases.

By the end of 2007 we will consult on proposals to extend permitted development rights for the installation of microgeneration equipment without planning permission to non-residential users, on detailed changes to regulations, policy and guidance in relation to local plan making, on proposals on revised arrangements for statutory consultees and on proposals to extend the impact approach to minor non- householder development.

By summer 2008 we will consult on proposals for revising the main legislation covering the process of submitting and considering planning applications.

The Government plan to legislate at the earliest opportunity, with the aim of having the infrastructure planning commission operational in 2009.

Refuges: Females

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many recorded cases there were of women being housed in refuges and safe houses in West Lancashire constituency in 2006. [144822]

Yvette Cooper: The Department does not hold a total figure centrally.

Information about local authorities’ actions under homelessness legislation is collected quarterly at local authority level. The duty owed to a household accepted as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need is to secure suitable accommodation. If
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a settled home is not immediately available the authority may secure temporary accommodation until settled accommodation is provided.

One type of temporary accommodation is women's refuges. A breakdown by local authority of reported households in women’s refuges under homelessness provisions at the end of December 2006 has been placed in the Library of the House. The West Lancashire constituency falls within West Lancashire district local authority.

Women may also enter refuges without going through the statutory homelessness route. Many women’s refuges receive Supporting People funding, and records of new entrants to Supporting People funded services are submitted by service providers on the Client Record form.

Data from the Client Record form are published on the Centre for Housing Research’s website, for financial years and at administrative authority level. This includes the number of new clients entering Supporting People funded women’s refuges, for service providers in each of the administrating authorities, including Lancashire county council, in 2006-07, in table 2.1: http://ggsrv-cold.st-andrews.ac.uk/spclientrecord/, (follow the links to “Latest Reports”, then “Reporting to Administering Authorities”).

It is important to note that imputation has not been made for cases when the Client Record form was not submitted, and that these figures only cover Supporting People funded services.

Regional Planning and Development: Thames Gateway

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations she has received on the Government’s targets (a) to create 180,000 jobs and (b) to build 160,000 new homes in the Thames Gateway between 2001 and 2016; and if she will make a statement on progress made to date towards meeting each target. [140631]

Yvette Cooper: The Government target to create the conditions for 180,000 jobs and the capacity for 160,000 homes was published in the Thames Gateway Interim Plan. The plan was endorsed by the relevant regional assemblies, regional development agencies, local regeneration partnerships and other key stakeholders through the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership. The Department continues to work with the partnership and others in pursuing its shared objectives.

In 2005, there were approximately 58,600 more employees in the Thames Gateway than in 2001, an increase of 9.7 per cent. This is equivalent to an increase of approximately 46,600 or 9 per cent. in the number of full-time equivalent jobs.

Between 2001-02 and 2005-06, a total of 29,775 net new dwellings have been added to the housing stock of the Thames Gateway.

Regional Spatial Strategies

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for the (a) approval, (b) amendment and (c) ratification of each of the regional spatial strategies. [145137]


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Meg Munn: The following table sets out the Secretary of State's current plans for publication of proposed changes and the issue of final Regional Spatial Strategies in each of the eight English regions outside London.

Proposed Changes Issue of Final RSS

North East

May 2007

January 2008

North West

October 2007

March 2007

Yorkshire and Humberside

September 2007

February 2008

East Midlands

January 2008

July 2008

West Midlands (Phase 1)

July 2007

November 2007

West Midlands (Phase 2)

February 2009

June 2009

East of England

December 2006

Autumn 2007

South East

Autumn 2007

Spring 2008

South West

February 2008

June 2008


Small Businesses: Rates and Rating

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the take-up rate was for small business rate relief in each year since its introduction. [145159]

Mr. Woolas: The information requested is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Social Rented Housing

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether data on the location of subsidised housing from the National Register of Social Housing are used by the Valuation Office Agency for council tax valuation purposes. [128491]

Mr. Woolas: No.

Subsidence

Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what policies her Department has in place with regard to local authorities dealing with widespread and severe subsidence in public areas; and if she will make a statement; [141999]

(2) whether her Department provides a contingency fund which local authorities can access to deal with severe and widespread subsidence in public areas caused by abandoned mineworkings. [142001]

Yvette Cooper [holding answers 11 June 2007]: The Department has in place the Land Stabilisation Programme as a source of contingency funding, which provides local authorities with financial assistance with meeting a proportion of the costs for dealing with unforeseen land instability problems caused by abandoned non-coal mines, where the project costs are judged to be eligible.


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Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what guidance her Department has made available to local authorities affected by widespread and severe subsidence in public areas caused by abandoned mineworkings operated by companies no longer in existence on how to determine where the financial liabilities lie for restoring affected public areas, public buildings and private properties; [142000]

(2) what (a) financial assistance, (b) additional powers or responsibilities and (c) legal and technical assistance her Department makes available to local authorities dealing with severe subsidence in public areas; [142002]

(3) what courses of action are available to local authorities to provide remedies to (a) schools, (b) housing estates and (c) other public spaces affected by severe subsidence caused by derelict mineworkings; and if she will make a statement. [142003]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer s 11 June 2007]: Statutory responsibility in ensuring public safety from threats stemming from land instability lies with local authorities. Local authorities in England are eligible to apply to the Land Stabilisation Programme via English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, for assistance with funding for land stabilisation problems arising from abandoned non-coal mines. English Partnerships manages the Land Stabilisation Programme on behalf of the Department. The focus of funding through the Land Stabilisation Programme is principally on removal of blight or enabling investment to regenerate areas where abandoned underground non-coal mine workings are present and where there is a threat to life and/or property. Extensive guidance on the assistance available and how to apply for assistance with funding can be found on the English Partnerships website at:

Responsibility for dealing with stabilisation works and for complying with any regulations or legislation governing public health and safety lies at all times with local authorities. This includes compliance with planning requirements environmental protection and management of consultants/contractors. English Partnerships’ expertise in best value and best practice is available to all project partners and covers a wide range of subjects such as construction methods and standards, management techniques, sustainable remediation and regeneration of blighted land. Where project costs are not eligible for assistance from EP via the Land Stabilisation Programme, EP will nevertheless assist with advice.

Funding assistance for local authorities provided through the non-coalmining Land Stabilisation Programme can help to safeguard or remediate housing, commercial and other properties and public areas, including schools, above the mines.

Travelling People

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have produced Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments deemed inadequate by her Department on grounds of (a) unreliable figures and
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(b) inadequate research; and if she will make a statement. [145019]

Meg Munn: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today (PQ 142434).

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps are being taken to ensure that the Travellers’ site at Ecton Lane is provided with the floodlighting and perimeter fencing as specified in the bid for funding approved by her Department. [146002]

Meg Munn: The completion of fencing as required by the contract specification is currently being undertaken by a fencing contractor, and is programmed to be completed by 20 July 2007.

The floodlighting is now being undertaken by electrical contractors. These works have a target completion date of 27 July 2007.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the quality of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments which she has received to date; and if she will make a statement. [142434]

Meg Munn: The Secretary of State does not have a formal role in assessing the quality of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessments. Communities and Local Government will offer advice and support to local authorities on undertaking these assessments as necessary. Draft guidance was published in February 2006, and a final version has now been laid before Parliament, as required by the Housing Act 2004.

Regional assemblies will need to consider the quality of these assessments as they revise regional spatial strategies to identify pitch requirements at a regional level and allocate these between local authorities. Research undertaken for Communities and Local Government, “Preparing Regional Spatial Strategy reviews on Gypsies and Travellers by regional planning bodies”, provides regional assemblies with a methodology for this. This is available on the Communities and Local Government website at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=l508208


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