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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent changes the Valuation Office Agency has made to its practices employed in valuing composting facilities for business rate purposes; what guidance the Agency has produced on such practices; and under what circumstances such facilities are eligible for an agricultural rating exemption. 
John Healey: The Valuation Office Agency has recently issued advice to its valuation officers on the approach to valuing those composting facilities that are rateable. This advice is publicly accessible on the VOA website in Rating Manual volume 5 section 1119.
Where composting material is brought on to a site and processed for compost, this will not fall within the
exemption for agriculture. Such composting operations will often have contracts for processing waste with local authorities.
Valuation officers have a duty to maintain rating lists and will include non-exempt, non-agricultural commercial composting sites. These are often (though not always) found on otherwise exempt agricultural properties. When included in a rating list, local authorities have a duty to collect the rates due.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what capital receipts from sale of council housing were in each year since 1997 in each year, broken down by region. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 22 January 2008]: The following table provides information on the regional totals of capital receipts from the sale of housing fixed assets as reported by local authorities over the last 10 years.
|Sale of fixed assets: Housing: England|
|North East||North West||Yorkshire and the Humber||East Midlands||West Midlands||East of England||London||South East||South West||Total England|
Communities and Local Government Capital Outturn Returns (COR).
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether vacant Crown property will be liable to pay the business rate once rate relief for empty properties has been removed. 
John Healey: Empty property relief is not being removed. From 1 April 2008, 100 per cent. relief will be available for three months in respect of all empty non-domestic properties, and for six months for empty qualifying industrial and warehouse properties. 100 per cent. relief will continue to be available permanently for other classes of empty property which will be specified in regulations to be laid before Parliament for approval shortly.
For those empty properties in respect of which 100 per cent. relief is not available permanently, after the initial periods of 100 per cent. relief come to an end, the empty property rate will be 100 per cent. of the basic occupied rate.
The Crown is liable to pay rates on its properties in the usual way. Crown property will therefore be eligible for empty property relief for the appropriate period and after that period ends, will be subject to the normal empty property rate.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many planning applications for developments in flood risk areas were approved against the advice of the Environment Agency in each of the last three years. 
Caroline Flint: Policies were first introduced to control development in areas at risk of flooding in 2001. In 2001-02, the proportion of applications approved contrary to the Environment Agencys objections on flood risk was 11 per cent., in 2006-07 the proportion was 2 per cent. This information comes from the Environment Agencys report to CLG and DEFRA (HLT5).
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will bring forward proposals to introduce a power to rescind planning permission where there is a serious risk of that location flooding or if that development will cause another site to flood; and if she will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 22 January 2 008]: The Secretary of State already has power under section 100 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to revoke or modify a planning permission granted by a local planning authority. Revocation or modification can only be made before a planning permission is implemented. Such intervention is justified only in exceptional circumstances and the Secretary of State will generally use this power only if the original decision is judged to be grossly wrong.
It is clearly better to ensure that up to date and relevant Government planning policy is available for local planning authorities to take into account, when planning for development and deciding planning applications. Planning Policy Statement 25 Development and Flood Risk, published in December 2006, provides such planning policy.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many trainee (a) home inspectors and (b) energy inspectors have received a qualification from Morgan Whittaker. 
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the (a) financial and (b) non-financial effect of home information packs on the housing market; and what criteria and evidence she has used in making the assessment. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consultation process has taken place on the allowed age of an energy performance certificate in a Home Information Pack. 
Caroline Flint: In line with the Governments code of practice, a formal consultation on the allowed age of an energy performance certificate in a home information pack was launched on 13 December 2007 and can be seen on the Communities and Local Government website. The consultation presents a range of scenarios and invites respondents to provide any additional evidence that should be considered. It closes on 6 March 2008.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the contractual deadline is for Ipsos Mori to complete its evaluation of the area trials for home condition reports. 
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what changes the Government have made to the rules and regulations relating to housing and capital receipts since 1997. 
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