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Environment Protection: Planning Permission

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many requests from planning authorities for responses on planning permission applications the Environment Agency has received in (a) 2007-08 and (b) 2008-09 to date; [220217]

(2) how many Environment Agency staff are working to process requests from planning authorities for responses on planning permission applications; [220218]

(3) what the current backlog is for requests from planning authorities for responses on planning permission applications to the Environment Agency; and what the current average waiting time for responses is. [220219]

Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency receives requests from planning authorities for comments on planning application consultations, development plans and pre-application consultation requests from developers. The Environment Agency replied to 49,432 planning application consultations in 2007-08. In the first quarter of 2008-09 the Environment Agency replied to 11,279 planning applications.


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Planning application consultations sent to the Environment Agency are initially dealt with by Planning Liaison teams, but they may also require additional input from Environment Agency technical experts in issues such as flood risk, pollution, water, waste and wetland biodiversity. There are currently 238 Area Planning posts in the Environment Agency.

There is no current ‘backlog’ of requests. The current live workload is 3,072 items of ‘casework’, which includes planning applications, inquiries and other consultations. The average response time for planning applications in the first quarter of 2008-09 was 15.8 days.

In the Environment Agency's most recent report (2006-07, December 2007) on replies to planning application responses within the statutory 21-day time limit (or other period as agreed in writing with the applicant), 89 per cent. of consultations (on 40,168 planning applications) were determined within the time period. The report for 2007-08 is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

Environment Protection: Somerset

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much money has been spent in the Somerset Levels and Moors on the (a) environmentally sensitive areas, (b) countryside stewardship, (c) environmental stewardship and (d) Natural England wildlife enhancement scheme. [219933]

Joan Ruddock: The question covers four schemes which cover different areas and are managed in different ways.

The following table gives a breakdown of the spend under each scheme to date.

Scheme Date parameters Spend (£)

Environmentally Sensitive Area—Management Agreements

1 January 1998 to 17 July 2008

25,361,582

Environmentally Sensitive Area—Conservation Plans

1 January 1998 to 17 July 2008

620,879

Wildlife Enhancement Scheme (SSSI only within the ESA)

1 April 2002 to 31 March 2008

605,532

Countryside Stewardship (within the county of Somerset)—Revenue

1 January 1998 to 17 July 2008

10,558,903

Countryside Stewardship (within the county of Somerset)—Capital

1 January 1998 to 17 July 2008

6,671,447

Environmental Stewardship (within JCA 142)—Entry Level Stewardship

1 January 2005 to 17 July 2008

446,471

Environmental Stewardship (within JCA 142)—Organic Entry Level Stewardship

1 January 2005 to 17 July 2008

421,166

Environmental Stewardship (within JCA 142)—Entry Level with Higher Level Stewardship

1 January 2005 to 17 July 2008

628,379

Environmental Stewardship (within JCA 142)—Organic Entry Level with Higher Level Stewardship

1 January 2005 to 17 July 2008

20,679


JCA 142 is the Joint Character Area for the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Fisheries: Research

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether he has received the final project report on By-catch Mitigation Research from the Sea Mammal Research Unit; and when the report will be made publicly available; [221641]


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(2) how many cetaceans have been saved as a result of the UK’s cetacean by-catch response strategy published in 2003; [221659]

(3) what Government-funded research is being undertaken on cetacean by-catch; what the focus of that research is; when it will conclude; and when the results of the research will be publicly available. [221662]

Jonathan Shaw: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 10 July 2008, Official Report, column 1777W, for details on the Government-funded research being undertaken by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) on cetacean by-catch mitigation. The final report of the project is due to be published in the autumn.

Information on implementing the UK’s cetacean by-catch response strategy is available on DEFRA’s website.

Further information will be made available when the annual report on the UK cetacean by-catch monitoring scheme is published.

Flood Control

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on his plans for restructuring of internal drainage boards; and what assessment he has made of the effects of the restructuring on maintenance and dredging of watercourses in England. [220022]

Mr. Woolas: I have asked internal drainage boards (IDBs) to consider a move to sub-catchment management to achieve a better integrated approach towards the management of catchments and coastal systems.

The concept of sub-catchment management is based on managing water levels throughout a whole catchment to achieve a reduction in the risk of flooding to people, property, businesses, infrastructure, high quality agricultural land and to maintain and improve favourable conditions for environmentally sensitive areas.

Once re-organised on a sub-catchment basis, IDBs will be larger, better resourced, will benefit from economies of scale and will be better placed to strategically plan, prioritise and deliver appropriate maintenance of watercourses. They will also be better able to contribute a strategic view to the future development of high level plans, including catchment flood management plans and river basin management plans.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many engineers are employed by (a) the Environment Agency in England and (b) internal drainage boards in England; and how many people will be employed by internal drainage boards after the restructuring programme is completed. [220023]

Mr. Woolas: The Environment Agency estimates that it employs around 200 chartered and incorporated engineers with experience in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering but recognises that this list is not comprehensive.

DEFRA does not record the information on internal drainage board engineers.


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Flood Control: Somerset

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been spent by the Environment Agency and its predecessor bodies on flood risk management in the Somerset Levels and Moors flood plain since 1987; and how much of that money was spent on (a) dedicated water management for nature conservation and (b) protection of special protection areas and sites of scientific interest. [219931]

Mr. Woolas: The overall cost of flood risk management for the Somerset Levels and Moors area from 1987 to the current date is £28.1 million. The costs include elements of schemes and strategies that cover a larger area than the Levels and Moors but could not be separated.

The costs associated with raised water level areas protecting sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) within the Somerset Levels and Moors since 1987 are £1.6 million, which includes construction and maintenance expenditure.

Schemes were also undertaken where the primary driver is the DEFRA Public Service Agreement Target 3, which states that 95 per cent. of all SSSIs must be in favourable or favourable recovering condition by 2010. These SSSIs also form part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area and the Environment Agency's work helps to protect the integrity of the internationally important sites under the Habitats Regulation 1994.

The Greylake Sluice and Oath Tidal Sluice schemes have both been replaced with new structures that allow greater flexibility in the control of water level management at a cost of £6.5 million combined. Similar work has also been carried out on a number of smaller structures at a combined cost of £3.5 million. Additional small schemes are also planned in the future. The costs formulated are only those of the Environment Agency.

Flooding Lessons Learned Review

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made towards publishing an action plan for the implementation of the recommendations made in the Pitt report. [220464]

Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) on 17 July 2008, Official Report, column 393.

Flooding: Gloucestershire

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 14 July 2008, Official Report, column 29W, on flooding: Gloucestershire, if he will direct the Environment Agency to undertake repair work on the Glynbridge Gardens side of the River Chelt. [220509]

Mr. Woolas [holding answer 21 July 2008]: The Environment Agency is repairing the river banks on the
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George Reading Wayside of the River Chelt because a flood defence wall is at risk of collapsing. There are no flood defences on the Glynbridge Gardens side of the river and responsibility for maintenance lies with the riparian owner. Therefore, I will not direct the Environment Agency to undertake such work.

However, I will request that the riparian owner undertakes this work.

Game

Angela Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency on registration and compliance with their terms of the registration of establishments processing wild game; and if he will make a statement. [220261]

Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 21 July 2008]: There have been no discussions at ministerial level with the Food Standards Agency in respect of establishments handling the processing of wild game.

Geographical Information Systems

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has to establish a geo-portal for spatial data held by public bodies, including cadastral data, to help implement the provisions of the EU INSPIRE Directive. [221250]

Jonathan Shaw: The creation of a national geo-portal is being considered in plans to implement the EU INSPIRE directive. The portal would provide one place where users can access metadata (on data corresponding to the INSPIRE spatial data themes, one of which is cadastral parcels) and be directed to other services, for example, to view and download data.

Heating: Carbon Emissions

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates his Department has made of the potential carbon dioxide savings of replacing D-rated and below energy circulator pumps with A-rated energy circulator pumps in (a) domestic and (b) non-domestic properties in the UK. [219189]

Joan Ruddock: The Government’s Market Transformation Programme estimates, based on sales data from 2006, that the potential carbon savings of replacing D-rated and below energy labelled circulator pumps with A-rated energy labelled circulator pumps would be about 0.1 megatonnes of carbon for domestic properties and about 0.3 megatonnes of carbon for non-domestic properties.

Marine and Fisheries Agency

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the levels of (a) customer and (b) stakeholder satisfaction with the Marine and Fisheries Agency; and if he will make a statement. [221547]


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Jonathan Shaw: There has been no formal assessment yet of customer or stakeholder satisfaction with the Marine and Fisheries Agency. The Agency is planning to undertake a customer satisfaction survey this year.

Marine Management Organisation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reasons trade unions in his Department were not consulted before the status of the proposed Marine Management Organisation was determined in January 2007. [220373]

Jonathan Shaw: There have been two formal consultations on the Marine Bill including proposals for the establishment of a Marine Management Organisation (MMO). These were undertaken in accordance with the Government's consultation criteria. The trade unions therefore had two opportunities to provide comments on part of the process. Officials have also met regularly with the trade unions to discuss the Marine Bill, implementation of the MMO and related issues.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent to which the Marine and Fisheries Agency meets the objectives he has set for the proposed Marine Management Organisation. [221546]

Jonathan Shaw: The Marine and Fisheries Agency already undertakes many of the functions that will fall to the new Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and there is broad agreement that the MMO should be built on the MFA. Where practicable new functions will be transferred to the MFA in advance of the establishment of the MMO with the aim of ensuring a smooth transition to the new organisation.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration his Department has given to according Crown status to the proposed Marine Management Organisation. [221549]

Jonathan Shaw: The Marine Bill consultation in 2006 set out options for the status of Marine Management Organisation (MMO), including Executive agency. Careful consideration was given to the most appropriate status for the MMO, and responses to that consultation were taken into account.

Non-departmental public body (NDPB) status was considered to be the most appropriate given the functions that the new body is designed to deliver, together with the fact that those services will be delivered by the MMO on behalf of the Government and not just on behalf of DEFRA.


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