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15 Oct 2007 : Column 858W—continued

Local Government Executive: Pay

Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will publish the average annual salary costs of directly elected mayors in England for each of the last five years for which figures are available. [156561]

John Healey: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportional cost.

National Housing and Planning Advice Unit

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the (a) purpose and (b) budget is of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit; [155690]


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(2) who the board members of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit are; and by what process they were appointed; [155691]

(3) how many full-time equivalent staff work for the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit. [155692]

Yvette Cooper: The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit's objective is to advise Government and the regions on the implications for the level and broad distribution of future house building of the Government's national ambitions for long-term market affordability and housing supply. The unit's budget for 2007-08 is £1,459,000 to include funding research and expert analysis on future housing trends.

The board members of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit are:

The board appointments were made in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

There are 12 full-time equivalent staff who work for the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit.

Noise: Wind Power

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will publish the guidelines for noise emission from wind turbines to be taken into account by planning authorities; and whether she has plans to review such guidelines. [158019]

Mr. Iain Wright: Planning policies for renewable energy technologies, including wind turbines, are set out in Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS22). PPS22 is supported by a companion guide which provides practice guidance on planning for renewables. Both documents are available at www.communities.gov.uk

PPS22 expects local planning authorities to

and in doing so, assess and rate noise from wind energy developments using the 1997 report by the Energy and Technology Support Unit. This report is available on the BERR website (www.berr.gov.uk). There are no plans to review this guidance at present.

Planning: Appeals

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) of 3 September 2007, Official Report, column 1693W, on planning: appeals, how many planning appeals have been considered and ruled upon by the Planning Inspectorate in relation to planning applications for
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residential development within the curtilage of existing residential development since 1 April; how many were allowed; and how many were dismissed. [157505]

Mr. Iain Wright: The information requested is not held centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Planning: Fees and Charges

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the revenue from planning fees in (a) 2007-08 and (b) 2006-07. [157654]

Mr. Iain Wright: The revenue income from planning fees for 2007-08 is estimated to be £234 million.

The revenue income from fees for the period 2006-07 was estimated to be £232 million.

Planning: Renewable Energy

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she has plans to prevent local authorities from adopting a Merton rule in the planning process; and if she will make a statement. [156609]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 9 October 2007]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) today (PQ 155448).

Renewable Energy

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what impact she expects the recent changes to the Merton rule to have on progress towards the Government's targets for carbon dioxide emission reduction. [155448]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 17 September 2007]: The Government have set out a timetable to cut carbon emissions from new homes. Major reductions will be required in 2010 and 2013. By 2016 all new homes must be zero carbon including appliances. These reductions need to be underpinned in the planning system as well as in building regulations, and they will require major increases in the use of renewables. “Merton Rules” are an important part of this framework.

As we gear up to our zero-carbon ambition, councils will be able to continue with and adopt new Merton Rules, although it is very important they are properly tested as part of development plan documents to ensure that standards are compatible with increasing affordable housing in the area. We also believe they should be sufficiently flexible to allow for off site as well as on site renewable technologies and councils should also consider wider local low carbon opportunities. The emphasis should be on minimising carbon emissions and maximising the scope for innovation. When there are clear carbon savings to be had from local energy supplies they should be included.

As we have said in “Building a Greener Future”, councils should have a strategy for securing decentralised and renewable and low carbon energy in new development. Our new Planning Policy Statement
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on climate change will therefore support local strategies that include both site (and area) specific targets and Merton-style rules. The area specific targets should be set for locations where higher proportions of renewable and low carbon energy are feasible and viable.

Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the Government's policy is on the Merton Rule; and if she will make a statement. [158237]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) today (PQ 155448).

Right to Buy Scheme

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her Department’s (a) estimate and (b) target is for the annual number of (i) local authority and (ii) housing association Right to Buy sales in England in the next period for which figures are available. [157476]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government do not set any targets for right to buy sales. The right to buy is available to secure tenants of local authorities and housing associations, while assured tenants of housing associations who have transferred with their homes from local authorities have a preserved right to buy. Social landlords are required by the Housing (Right to Buy) (Information to Secure Tenants) (England) Order 2005 to give their tenants an outline of the provisions of part 5 of the Housing Act 1985 (the right to buy scheme). It is up to individual tenants to decide whether they wish to exercise their right to buy, in the light of their personal circumstances.

Sleeping Rough

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she has taken to reduce levels of street homelessness. [158149]

Mr. Iain Wright: In 1998 the Prime Minister set a target that by 2002 the number of rough sleepers should be reduced by at least two-thirds. The target was met ahead of time and is being sustained. In 1998 there were 1,850 rough sleepers on the streets of England on any single night. In 2007 there were just over 500.

In addition, our £90 million Hostels Capital Improvement Programme is helping make hostels places of change with 178 projects in 62 local authority areas. Hostels will provide better opportunities for people who have been homeless and prevent them from returning to the streets.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will bring forward legislation to protect the viewing corridor of St Paul's Cathedral from Richmond Park. [157629]

Mr. Iain Wright: The viewing corridor from Richmond Park to St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the 11
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protected vistas identified in the Mayor of London's view management framework. Directions requiring consultation on proposals that may affect these vistas have now been issued by the Secretary of State and came into effect on 13 July 2007.

Thames Gateway: Finance

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which capital projects were funded in the Thames Gateway project in each year since its inception; and how much each has cost. [149680]

Yvette Cooper: The total amount of capital funding by year was:

£ million

2003-04

38.4

2004-05

136.4

2005-06

143.8

2006-07

118.3


Since 2003 central Government have invested over £7 billion into the Gateway for major infrastructure, roads, schools, and other facilities, as well as project funding provided by my Department. The Gateway also benefits from the £1.8 billion public sector contribution to the channel tunnel rail link enabling international services via Ebbsfleet from 14 November this year, and domestic services from 2009.

Unitary Councils

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for laying and ratification of secondary legislation in relation to areas where unitary local government bids (a) are still being considered and (b) have been approved. [156577]

John Healey: Subject to the enactment of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, we intend, in late November or early December, to take final decisions on all unitary local government bids and to lay any draft implementation orders before Parliament. Subject to parliamentary approval of the drafts, we intend to make implementation orders around the end of 2007. We also intend to make regulations making general provision about such matters as the transfer of property, rights and liabilities and staff.

Wind Power: Planning

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance she has given to planning authorities on the minimum distances between wind turbines and residential accommodation; and what information she holds in relation to the equivalent guidance given in (a) Scotland and (b) Wales. [158020]

Mr. Iain Wright: The companion guide which supports Planning Policy Statement 22 notes that 'fall over' distance (i.e. the height of the turbine to the tip of the blade) plus 10 per cent. is often used as a safe
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separation distance; but advises that the minimum desirable distance between wind turbines and occupied buildings, calculated on the basis of expected noise levels and visual impact, will often be greater than that necessary to meet safety requirements.

Guidance for Scotland and Wales is a matter for the Scottish Executive and for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Children, Schools and Families

Academies

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families whether a new academy may be approved in an area where the local education authority is opposed to it; and if he will make a statement. [151880]

Jim Knight: A large majority of academies replace existing weak or under-performing schools. Others are proposed by local authorities as brand new schools in areas needing extra schools places. Each of these academies is, in effect, jointly commissioned by the Department and the local authority, with the local authority a signatory to the formal academy project expression of interest.

Other academy projects are brought forward where an academy proposal wins the competition now required under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 for most new and replacement schools. The purpose of the competitions is to ensure that new schools exhibit the highest standards and quality and that they meet the needs of each locality. Competitions are decided by the relevant local authority, unless the local authority itself enters a proposal in the competition, in which case the competition is decided by the independent schools adjudicator.

There are also a small number of former fee-paying day schools, which want to become academies in order to transform their contribution to local education by expanding and broadening their pupil intake to the benefit of all local students. In these cases, the local authority is not a signatory to the expression of interest, but the Secretary of State is under a duty to consult the local authority before considering the academy’s formal funding agreement.

Academies: Capital Investment

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what the capital cost was of each academy (a) opened and (b) planned since 2002. [150837]

Jim Knight: Originally, academies were built with capital grant paid directly by the Secretary of State, together with a contribution from the sponsors. A new method under which academy buildings are being procured through Building Schools for the Future (BSF) or Partnership for Schools’ (PfS) national framework has now been introduced.

Capital grant paid by the Secretary of State is paid under a funding agreement with the relevant academy trust. The first table as follows lists estimated costs
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including capital grant and sponsorship funding, for academies where a funding agreement has been signed, and the Secretary of State is paying capital grant to the relevant academy trust. For some such academies, no estimated cost is available because the design process is still at an early stage, and the section of the funding agreement relating to capital grant has yet to be agreed. Academies marked with an asterisk are operating in completed buildings.

A number of other academy projects are still at the feasibility stage of development and as no part of the funding agreement has yet been signed, and no estimated costs are available, these are excluded from the table.


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