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Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) by what means the Eco Towns Challenge Panels plans to take account of expertise in biodiversity and wildlife management and protection in the course of its work; 
Caroline Flint: The preservation of important wildlife and landscape assets is one of the key criteria for new eco-towns. The Eco-town Challenge Panel is an independent group of people with expertise in various aspects of urban and sustainable development. The Panel exists to encourage bidders by challenging them to improve and develop their proposals to the point where they can be regarded as truly exemplary projects, which fit well within their surroundings, demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development and represent a step change beyond what would currently be regarded as best practice. Of the members of the Challenge Panel, three are experts in environmental issues.
Natural England, Government's agency working to conserve, enhance and manage the natural environment, was fully involved in the initial assessment and shortlisting of the eco-town proposals. Furthermore, there will shortly be a second Government consultation on a sustainability appraisal, which provides a more detailed assessment of locations, and a draft Planning Policy Statement, before we identify a final list. These locations will then need to go through the planning process and be subject to full public scrutiny, where impacts on biodiversity and natural assets will be key considerations at all stages.
The sustainability appraisal will consider the environmental, economic and social impacts of eco-towns policy both nationally and in the proposed locations. This will take account of work that local authorities may have already undertaken to test development options in their area and as part of the testing process we will also consider the habitats directive.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what reports her Department has received of cases of intentional property demolition to avoid empty property business rates in the latest period for which figures are available; 
(2) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield, of 9 July 2008, Official Report, column 1637W, on non-domestic rates: empty property, if she will list each of the possible incidences reported to her Department, including the location and the nature of the alleged deliberate dilapidation. 
As I indicated in my answer to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) on 9 July 2008, Official Report, column 1637W, the Government have asked local authorities to provide information about how reforms to the empty property rate are
working. The information provided will be based on the informed judgment of individual local authority officers and is being gathered as a broad indicator of the scale of possible avoidance activity and not a detailed survey. We will set out in an appropriate form our general findings in due course.
Caroline Flint: Over 2008-12, the adopted East Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy sets out plans for 13,405 net additional dwellings in North Northamptonshire. Regional Spatial Strategies are currently under review to ensure delivery against the national target of 240,000 additional homes a year by 2016, as set out in last year's housing Green Paper.
We do however have the density of new build dwellings averaged over a four-year period. These are provided at local authority level on the CLG website in Live table P232. The web address for Live table P232 is:
Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether local planning authorities can meet their house building targets by proposing development of land in other counties; and what powers they have of compulsory purchase in such circumstances. 
Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 22 July 2008]: The regional strategy preparation process, which involves input from local authorities, sets housing numbers for districts. These take into account the need and demand for housing within housing market areas and the strategic availability of land within individual districts. Therefore these numbers should be planned for by individual districts but we encourage joint working between districts in doing this.
The Local Government Act 1972 gives local authorities a qualified right to purchase land compulsorily outside their areas. Whether this is possible in any given case will depend on the specific enabling power to be used.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of economic migrants entering the UK in each of the last five years have been housed in the (a) owner-occupied, (b) social rented and (c) private rented sector. 
However, the Department has information from the Survey of English Housing for 2005-06 and 2006-07 on the total number of recent migrant householders by housing tenure. It is estimated that of all migrant householders who arrived in the UK during the past two years and are currently living in England: 3 per cent. are in owner occupation; 7 per cent. are in the social rented sector; and 90 per cent. are in the private rented sector.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to assist first-time buyers with property purchase; and which of these are available to those seeking to buy property in West Lancashire constituency. 
Mr. Iain Wright: The Government's Low Cost Home Ownership programme helps to make home ownership more affordable to first time buyers, and enables purchasers get a foot on the property ladder through its HomeBuy products: New Build HomeBuy, Open Market HomeBuy and Social HomeBuy.
New Build HomeBuy enables people to buy a minimum 25 per cent. share of a newly built property, paying a rent on the remainder. This includes the First Time Buyers Initiative.
Open Market HomeBuy enables people to buy a property on the open market with the help of an equity loan of up to 50 per cent.
Social HomeBuy enables tenants of participating local authorities and housing associations to buy a minimum 25 per cent. in their current home at a discount and pay rent on the remainder.
We have helped over 65,000 people into home ownership over the last three years, and as set out in the Housing Green Paper, we aim to help 75,000 more householders on to the property ladder over the next three years. The Government have recently announced a package of new initiatives to help more first time buyers, nationally, into affordable home ownership.
From 1 April two new equity loan products have been available through the Government's Open Market HomeBuy scheme. The loans provide first time buyers with more flexibility in the percentage of the value of their home that can be borrowedto a maximum of 50 per cent., and more choice in the mortgage they can take out.
A new cash grant of £1,500 is available to the first 2000 purchasers who take-up the new equity loans to help with the costs of purchasing their first home. From 14 May we:
expanded the Open Market HomeBuy scheme to help 2,500 first time buyers to purchase a new build home in 2008-09;
introduced flexibility for purchasing unsold stock from housebuilders for social rent or low cost home ownership;
expanded the flexibility criteria so that all first time buyers with a household income under £60,000 will be eligible for our HomeBuy scheme.
Finally, last week we announced a new Rent to HomeBuy scheme to support first time buyers into affordable home ownership by renting first and buying later.
John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many new homes were built in (a) Leeds West constituency and (b) Leeds Metropolitan District which were heated by (i) gas and (ii) electricity in the latest period for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Iain Wright: Data are not available for Leeds, West constituency but the Department publishes new build completions by district on its website. The number of new build completions as reported for the Leeds local authority area in 2007-08 is 3,052. The Department's statistics for new home completions do not include details of the form of heating used.
Mr. Iain Wright: The Department collects information on non-decent social sector homes from local authorities through the Business Plan Statistical Appendix (BPSA) annual return. Figures are provided in Table 1.
|Table 1: Non-decent homes owned by local authorities( 1) at 1 April 2007, by London borough|
|Non-decent homes||Percentage of total local authority stock non-decent|
|(1 )Retention authorities and Arms Length Management Organisations only. (2) LSVTLarge Scale Voluntary Transfer. One of the three options set out by Government for those authorities that need extra funding to meet the required Decent Homes standard. LSVT aims to deliver improved performance and services ensuring the extra money is spent cost-effectively. The council is free to focus on more strategic housing functions. Source: Communities and Local Government Business Plan Statistical Appendix (BPSA).|
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