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Housing: Thermal Insulation

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she has taken to promote innovation in the development of thermal insulation materials to be fitted to existing housing stock. [191464]

Mr. Iain Wright: My Department has been working with DEFRA, BERR and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to consider how we might promote innovation in this area, in particular with respect to the more difficult to treat solid-walled properties. As a result, the TSB included the issue of thermal insulation of existing buildings in its recent £12 million call for collaborative research and development proposals in the area of materials for energy. A number of research proposals have been received and are currently being evaluated.

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These three Departments in conjunction with Communities and Local Government have also collaborated with the TSB in developing their Low Impact Buildings Innovation Platform which will be launched this spring. This focuses on what is needed to enable UK industry to successfully meet the requirements of level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, to meet similar high levels of performance for new non- domestic buildings, and to develop materials for retrofitting the existing building stock. This will include fostering innovative improvements to the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings.

Infrastructure Planning Commission

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what scrutiny activity the Infrastructure Planning Commission will undertake other than of National Policy Statements. [191935]

John Healey: The Infrastructure Planning Commission’s main function will be to examine and determine applications for development consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects. National Policy Statements will be scrutinised by Parliament.

Local Government: Pay

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what measure of inflation local authorities will base staff pay changes in 2008-09. [191656]

John Healey: Pay uplifts for local authority employees, other than teachers, are negotiated by the Local Government Employers and the trade unions in the National Joint Council.

The Government’s policy is that public sector pay settlements should reflect the individual labour market position of work forces, be consistent with achievement of the Government’s CPI inflation target of 2 per cent., be affordable and represent value for money for taxpayers.

Non-Domestic Rates: Educational Institutions

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether account is taken by the Valuation Office Agency of the presence of sprinklers when calculating the rental value of educational premises for business rates. [189517]

John Healey: Fire suppression sprinklers are designated as rateable. Therefore, they will be taken into account by the Valuation Office Agency when they assess the rateable value of all rateable properties including educational premises.

Planning Permission: Appeals

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in what proportion of cases where a local authority lost a planning appeal, the local authority was obliged to meet all the costs of the appeal in financial year 2006-07. [190426]

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Mr. Iain Wright: Information to provide an answer to the precise question is not available. In 2006-07, 362 awards of appeal costs were made against local planning authorities. This figure comprises both full awards, where authorities lost the appeal, and partial awards where authorities did not lose the appeal but were made liable to pay partial costs for one or more aspects of the appeal. No record is available of the proportional breakdown between full and partial awards.

The actual amount to be paid is not determined by a costs award. This is for the parties to settle by negotiation initially in accordance with longstanding Government guidance contained in DOE Circular 8/93.

Planning Permission: Renewable Energy

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2008, Official Report, column 1318W, on planning permission: renewable energy, if she will provide a list of the no overall control council authorities referred to in the table. [190894]

Mr. Iain Wright: The councils with no overall political control who refused planning permission for renewable energy projects in 2007 are as follows:

The councils with no overall political control who had undetermined planning applications for renewable energy projects at the end of 2007 are as follows:

Planning: Floods

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on flood risks to existing householders from nearby large scale developments in flood plains; and if she will seek to arrange discussions with insurance companies on these concerns. [183837]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 1 February 2008]: The Government are well aware of the potential impacts large scale developments might have on the risk of
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flooding to existing householders. To manage these risks and avoid inappropriate development in flood risk areas we published planning guidance on development and flood risk in 2001, and strengthened this with the new Planning Policy Statement (PPS)25 in December 2006. PPS25 requires that the flood risk to and from all new development in flood risk areas, and from development over l ha outside these areas is assessed as part of the application for planning permission.

We also made the Environment Agency a statutory consultee on planning applications and introduced a flooding direction so that planning authorities cannot approve major developments against an objection from the Agency without first referring them to Ministers.

We are committed to working with the insurance industry to maximise the availability of flood insurance for homes and small businesses, and maintain regular contact with the Association of British Insurers to discuss insurance cover for existing properties, and other issues of mutual interest.

Planning: Greenbelt

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether regional planning authorities have powers to (a) review and (b) remove green belt designation. [191646]

Mr. Iain Wright: No. Regional spatial strategies prepared by regional planning bodies set the framework for green belt policy and settlement policy for the region, forming the context for local plan-making by local planning authorities. Planning Policy Guidance Note 2, “Green Belts”, states that local planning authorities can alter green belt boundaries through their local plans only in exceptional circumstances. Any such proposal will be subject to full consultation and independent examination.

Public Buildings: Fire Prevention

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what standards are used to test the combustibility of composite cladding panels used in the walls and roofs of new public buildings, with particular reference to schools and hospitals; and if she will make a statement. [191443]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Building Regulations 2000 (as amended) apply to building work, typically the erection, extension or material alteration of a building. Part B sets out requirements for fire safety and is supported by guidance in Approved Document B which sets out appropriate levels of fire performance for materials, products and structures when tested to relevant British or European standards.

Fire performance is tested using either the relevant parts of British Standard, BS 476 or using the tests specified in the relevant part of European Standard, EN 13501. The necessary level of performance that should be obtained will depend upon the type of building, the nature of the construction product and where it is located.

Specific guidance on meeting the fire safety requirements of the Building Regulations in the design and construction of schools is given in Building Bulletin 100 which is published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and on hospitals in Health Technical Memorandum 02-05 which is published by the Department of Health.

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Regeneration: Blackpool

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much has been allocated to the regeneration of (a) the Talbot Gateway and (b) other regeneration in central Blackpool for (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10 and (iii) 2010-11; and if she will make a statement. [191321]

John Healey: Investment by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and English Partnerships forms an important part of the overall package of regeneration measures for Blackpool announced in Parliament on 26 February 2008 in response to the report of the Blackpool Task Force. Central Government does not itself make decisions on, or directly fund, such investment, which quite properly must be informed by regional and local funding priorities and be funded according to the criteria and resources of the relevant organisations.

The NWDA have worked closely with ReBlackpool on the Talbot Gateway development, have provided initial financial support and now await costed proposals for the next stages. Talbot Gateway is expected to lever significant private sector investment.

Regional Planning and Development: Thames Gateway

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to publish the Thames Gateway Pan Gateway Inward Investment Plan; and if she will make a statement. [191594]

Caroline Flint: The three Regional Development Agencies involved in the Thames Gateway are currently developing a joint Pan-Gateway inward investment service which will come into place in April 2008, details of which will be published alongside their Economic Development Investment Plan. They are also preparing a joint inward investment marketing strategy which will be ready for execution in the summer.

Rightmove: Finance

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much the Valuation Office Agency has budgeted for payments to plc in 2008-09. [191632]

John Healey: The Valuation Office Agency has made no specific provision for payments to plc.

Sustainable Development: Expenditure

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government further to the publication by her Department of Sustainable Communities Act 2007: A Guide, whether cross-regional expenditure by (a) Government Offices for the Regions and (b) regional development agencies will be classed as public expenditure that cannot be mapped to local authority areas. [191651]

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John Healey: Section 6 of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 requires the Secretary of State to make arrangements for the production of local spending reports. A local spending report produces information about public expenditure in relation to a particular geographical area. While the basis behind local spending reports is to identify where public money is spent, it will not be possible or cost effective to map all public expenditure. For example, some public funding supports services which are not geographically specific or are used by people from a number of local authority areas.

Work on implementation is currently at an early stage and we aim to consult on proposals in the summer.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Birds: Imports

Ms Angela C. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the regulation of wild bird imports of the non-EU species proposed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee for inclusion in Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 has changed since the EU banned bird imports because of concerns over avian influenza. [190441]

Joan Ruddock: The EU ban on the import of wild birds has meant that, other than birds imported for conservation programmes, only captive-bred birds from approved breeding establishments have been permitted for import into the EU. These, and those birds imported for conservation programmes, must undergo a period of quarantine.

Birds of prey, such as those proposed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee for inclusion in Schedule 4, that are imported under exemptions from the ban continue to be subject to the controls under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether birds imported into the UK from other EU member states with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species sales certificates may be traced for DNA testing if required. [191014]

Joan Ruddock: There are no import controls between EU member states. CITES listed birds moved within Europe for commercial purposes will require a certificate issued under Article 10 of Regulation EC No 338/97 by the member state of its origin.

If the bird in question is noted as being captive bred, and provided the parent birds are available for examination, it would be possible for the bird's ancestry to be established through DNA analysis of blood or tissue. This would of course require the co-operation of the CITES management authority of the member state in question.

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