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I will shortly announce a consultation paper on eco-towns which will include a shortlist of areas that have been put forward as potential eco-towns.
An appraisal of sustainability is being undertaken, of which one of the tests will be to appraise the sustainability of eco-towns.
Furthermore, at the local level, where schemes are considered as part of the local planning process, sustainability appraisal will be undertaken of the strategy as well as of options for delivering the eco-town; this will include the consideration of alternatives. The local planning authority must clearly show how it has taken the requirements of sustainability appraisal into account in developing its policy.
Finally, all eco-towns will be the subject of a planning application. It is likely that the principal planning application for an eco-town would need to be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment which would need to include an outline of the main alternatives considered.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether eco-towns will be required to conform to criteria laid down in the regional spatial strategy and local development framework. 
Caroline Flint: Legislation requires that local planning authorities must determine planning applications in accordance with the statutory development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Where there are other material considerations, the development plan should be the starting point, and other material considerations should be taken into account in reaching a decision. One such consideration will be whether the plan policies are relevant and up to date.
Material considerations must be genuine planning considerations, i.e. they must be related to the development and use of land in the public interest and would include published planning policy statements such as those on housing and climate change together with any approved policy statement on eco-towns.
Caroline Flint: As set out in the eco-towns prospectus we have said that there must be a commitment to a high standard of design throughout the development, across all housing tenures and buildings. This includes commercial and community buildings, and extends to the quality of the streets, public realm, parks and open spaces, and should be consistent with planning policy.
We are also working with CABE, RIBA and the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment to stimulate new architectural thinking for eco-town schemes and these organisations will be running a design competition involving the leading British and international architects and urban and landscape designers to set the standards for the 10 new eco-towns.
Caroline Flint: As set out in the eco-towns prospectus, we have said that the whole eco-town development should reach zero carbon standards-not just homes, but schools, shops, offices and community facilities.
Caroline Flint: I will shortly announce a consultation paper on eco-towns which will include a shortlist of areas that have been put forward as potential eco-towns. The consultation paper and the potential eco-town sites will be the subject of extensive public consultation. Sustainability appraisal will also be carried out and a further consultation will be undertaken on the environmental report as part of this.
Furthermore, when schemes are considered at the local level, as part of the local planning process, the community will be engaged on the strategy as well as any options for delivering the eco-town. The local planning authority must clearly show how it has taken the community's comments into account in developing its policy.
Finally, all eco-towns will be the subject of a planning application and subject to statutory forms of consultation; representations are then taken into account in the determination of the application.
Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) such as PPS 1 on the delivery of sustainable development and PPS 3 on housing, require local planning authorities to consider how all development makes the most efficient use of land. An appraisal of sustainability will be undertaken, of which one of the tests will be to appraise the use of land contained in the bids which have been and are being considered.
At the local level, additional sustainability appraisal will be undertaken where proposals are brought through the local planning system. It is also likely that the principal planning application for an eco-town would need to be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment which would need to include an outline of the main alternatives considered.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether public requests ordering disposal may be made against property which is (a) Crown Land and (b) owned by Regional Development Agencies. 
John Healey: Part 10 of the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980 makes provision for the disposal of public land, including the specific public request to order disposal (PROD) power. Schedule 16 of the Act lists the specific bodies to whom part 10 of the Act applies.
Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 21 February 2008]: The numbers of vacant dwellings by ward, indicated by council tax data provided by Tandridge district council, are tabulated as follows. The figures presented are for all vacancies at 31 March 2005, including those that have been empty for less than six months. This is the most recent information for ward level vacancies in Tandridge.
|Total vacancies in Tandridge district council by ward at 31 March 2005|
|Ward name||All vacant dwellings (excluding second homes)|
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the impact of the cost of the clean up of the floods of summer 2007 on local authority budgets. 
John Healey: It is for individual local authorities to assess the impact of the cost of the clean up of the summer 2007 floods on their budgets, as the extent of that impact will depend on a range of factors specific to each authority. These factors include how they have dealt with the need to maintain adequate insurance cover, what level of reserves they maintain, and what sources of funding are available to them to cover the costs.
Central Government have made available a comprehensive funding package of up to £78 million to date to assist the affected regions in the aftermath of the floods. We took the decision to focus much of this resource on local authorities in the greatest need, including by making available up to £20 million in flood recovery grant, £14 million to help cover the costs of damage to schools and children's services, and over £16 million for repairs to the local highway with more to come as claims are assessed.
As part of this Government funding package, local authorities have also been able to claim under the Bellwin scheme for all eligible costs incurred on or in connection with the taking of immediate action to safeguard life and property or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2008, Official Report, column 788W, on the Health and Safety Executive, what estimate her Department has made of the number of homes in the country with water heaters of the kind involved in the death of Rhianna Hardie. 
Mr. Iain Wright: There are no official statistics on the number of different types of hot water systems in homes. The Health and Safety Executives advice in their 2007 safety alert is that the risk is greatest for homes where cold water cisterns are located above bedrooms. This is most likely in houses built between 1945 and 1975 and where these homes have or used to have a back boiler.
Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what action the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister took in 2002 following representations from the Health and Safety Executive on the threat of scalding water leaks from water tanks, following an incident in Penzance. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Following a request from ODPM officials, information was provided to us by the HSE on the circumstances leading up to the accident. This information was taken into account in our work with relevant trade and industry bodies to develop minimum standards of competence for the Building Regulations Competent Persons Schemes and in our preparations for a planned review of part G of the Building Regulations to fully consider all aspects of hot water safety.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 18 February 2008, Official Report, column 36W, on housing renewal areas: Private sector, if she will place in the Library the names of those individuals who have been asked to undertake the review of buy to let accommodation and student accommodation in the private rented sector; what the terms of reference of the review are; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Iain Wright: An independent policy review of the whole of the private rented sector was commissioned in January. The review is being undertaken by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York and is due to report by the end of October 2008. The aim of the review is to improve our policy understanding of the private rented sector, looking at the barriers that exist towards ensuring it consistently offers a fit for purpose product, the role it has into the future and the actions that could be taken to influence and support that role. The press release announcing the review and the terms of reference have been deposited in the Library of the House.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the Written Ministerial Statement of 18 September 2006, Official Report, columns 133-4WS, on Housing Employment Mobility Services, whether her Department recouped the £1.06 million and associated costs following the termination of its contract with Scout Solutions Projects Limited to deliver mobility services for social tenants in the UK. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Communities and Local Government is bound by the Lord Chancellors pledge on the Settlement of Government Disputes Through Alternative Dispute Resolution where this is appropriate and is obliged if possible to seek a negotiated settlement of dispute. Following the written ministerial statement of 18 September 2006, Official Report, columns 133-4WS the Department entered negotiations with a view to settlement of the dispute with the former moveUK contractor.
A confidential settlement was achieved on 7 June 2007 with an exchange of rights and assets. The settlement negotiated by the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Legal Directorate at Communities and Local Government was approved by HM Treasury and Counsel as an appropriate settlement representing value for money to the public purse having regard to: the chances of success; professional costs and other fees and expenses likely to be incurred; irrecoverable costs; the duration of proceedings and further delays to the delivery of public services.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to ensure that social housing providers take account of the importance of companion animals to tenants. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Most housing providers have a companion animal (pet) policy. However it is for individual landlords to decide if they wish to have one, and if so how to communicate that policy to their tenants.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answers of 31 January 2008, Official Report, column 583W, and 1 February 2008, Official Report, column 691W, on housing: local incomes, whether any deposit of the householder is applied to reducing (a) Part 1, (b) Part 2 or (c) Part 3 of the amount given to the household. 
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answers of 31 January 2008, Official Report, column 583W, and 1 February 2008, Official Report, column 691W, on housing: local incomes, what negative equity liability the householder has on the (a) Part 2 and (b) Part 3 of the loan if housing prices fall by more than (i) 15 per cent. or (ii) 17.5 per cent. of the original purchase price over the course of the loan. 
Mr. Iain Wright: If the value of the property were to fall the householder would be liable for any negative equity on part 1 and 2 of the loan. This is a common allocation of risk in the mortgage market.
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