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Nature Conservation: Wind Power

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department is conducting on the effect on bat populations of onshore wind turbines; how much funding has been provided for such research; and if he will make a statement. [243690]

Huw Irranca-Davies: A project has been approved to establish whether and to what extent bat populations are at risk from on-shore wind turbines. A specification for desk-based research and to establish survey protocols as phase 1 of a contract will go out to tender in January.
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Phase 2 of the contract will undertake field survey activity from August for up to three years.

To ensure we do not compromise the tender process we cannot specify what funding has been allocated to this work until contracts have been let.

Nitrate Zones: Gloucestershire

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will review his policy on nitrate zones in and around Gloucestershire; if he will allow additional time for appeals; what steps his Department has taken to inform farmers of the creation of new nitrate zones; and if he will make a statement. [244414]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The EC nitrates directive requires member states to review their designations of nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) every four years and to revise them as necessary. Reviews of NVZs in England are conducted at the national scale and the last review was undertaken in 2006-07. Regulations giving effect to the recent review were laid in September 2008 and come into force on 1 January 2009.

The regulations also establish that owner-occupiers can appeal against the designation of their land within an NVZ, and set the deadline for submitting an appeal as 31 January 2009. The independent appeals panel charged with determining appeals has powers under the regulations to accept information submitted beyond this deadline.

My Department wrote to all farmers identified as likely to be in an NVZ in October. A number of press notices and information bulletins have been issued highlighting the introduction of the new regulations and advising farmers to check published maps of the new NVZs. These and other awareness-raising activities are ongoing.

Religious Buildings: Fees and Charges

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) with reference to the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), of 12 November 2008, Official Report, column 1229W, on religious buildings: fees and charges, whether an assessment of the effect on the voluntary sector of changes to charges on places of worship was made; [245920]

(2) what estimate his Department has made of the average water bill for church premises; [245921]

(3) what checks Ofwat undertakes; and what steps his Department is taking to ensure that water companies do not gain additional revenue from new methods of charging. [246038]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Neither DEFRA nor Ofwat, the independent economic regulator of the water industry, collects information on the increases in water bills for groups of customers of a particular funding or charitable status. Where a company makes a change to the way it charges for water or sewerage services, Ofwat challenges the company's proposals to make sure charges are not unduly preferential to one customer group over another. Groups of customers are defined by the costs they are
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likely to impose and are independent of the financial or charitable status of individual non-household customers. Ofwat's checks also ensure that the company gains no additional revenue from the new method of charging.

Part of Ofwat's duty is to approve companies' charges schemes. These schemes outline how water and sewerage companies will charge their customers. It is for the company to decide on its methods of charging. When a company introduces new tariffs, Ofwat check that these are consistent with price limits and company licence conditions.

Each year Ofwat checks water company charges principal statements to make sure the weighted average increase in all of the company's charges does not exceed the company's price limits, for customers using less than 50 mega-litres per annum.

Rights of Way

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much land has been designated under section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; how much of this has been designated for the use of (a) walkers, (b) cyclists, (c) horse riders and (d) other equestrians; and at what locations land has been so designated. [244577]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) allows voluntary dedication by land owners and long leaseholders of public access rights over their land. To date 156,246 hectares of land has been dedicated in this way for public use on foot.

The same section allows a voluntary dedication to extend the CROW rights to include a right for the public to ride horses or cycles as well as a right of access on foot. To date there has been only one dedication of this kind, which created access rights for horse riders over 0.25 hectares of land in East Riding of Yorkshire. As yet there has been no such dedications of cycling rights.

Detailed information on the locations of the areas of land affected by dedications to date for access on foot cannot be provided, except at disproportionate expense, but the areas of land will normally be displayed as part of the open access land shown on Natural England's ‘countryside access’ website.

Rights of Way: North West

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much land under the Countryside and Right of Way Act 2000 has been allocated to (a) walkers, (b) cyclists and (c) horseriders in (i) Chorley, (ii) Lancashire and (iii) the North West. [245065]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The access land mapped under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) for public use on foot includes 1,752 hectares in Chorley, 37,941 hectares in Lancashire and 278,860 hectares in the North West of England. CROW created no new general rights of access for horse riders or cyclists, and there is no central record of any voluntary extension of the access rights over the land in question to include cyclists or horse riders.

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Rural Development Programme: North West

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding the Rural Development Programme has committed to projects in the North West in the last 12 months. [243962]

Huw Irranca-Davies [holding answer 15 December 2008]: Responsibility for project funding under the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-13 has been devolved to regional development agencies. In the last 12 months, the North West Regional Development Agency has committed funding to programmes and projects to the value of £29,259,851. This figure is made up of £567,972 to fund legacy commitments from the previous England Rural Development Programme which closed in 2006, and £28,691,879 committed to new activities under the Rural Development Programme for England.

Seals: Conservation

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to include measures to prohibit the shooting of seals in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. [244159]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Seals are currently protected in England by the Conservation of Seals Act (1970). Under this Act, it is an offence to take or kill common and grey seals out of season. The Act also allows for the Secretary of State, if it appears necessary for the proper conservation of seals, to designate an area within which the killing, injuring or taking of seals is prohibited.

Seals also receive protection under European law through Council Directive 92/43/EEC, known as the ‘Habitats Directive’. This directive requires EC member states to introduce a range of measures for the protection of habitats and species listed in its annexes. Seals feature as an Annex II qualifying species and therefore, within special areas of conservation (SACs) designated for the purpose of conserving seals, competent authorities are required to take appropriate steps to avoid significant disturbance to the species or deterioration of their habitat.

Presently, 12 SACs list grey seals as a species interest, and 11 SACs list common seals. Further information on these SACs can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website.

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill will provide us with a range of measures to protect nationally important marine features; one such measure is the introduction of marine conservation zones (MCZs). If seals were listed as a protected feature of an MCZ, they would be protected from deliberate damage, injuring, killing, taking and so on—including shooting—within that site, and competent authorities would be required to control activities to ensure any conservation objectives set for the site are not significantly hindered.

Seas and Oceans: Biodiversity

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of (a) flora and (b) fauna population trends on UK marine reefs. [246811]

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Huw Irranca-Davies: Reefs are a feature under the Habitats Directive (encompassing rocky reef and biogenic reef) and as such, its parameters are reported for Favourable Conservation Status (FCS). The Status is determined for Area, Range, Structure and Function, and Future prospects.

For the 2007 reporting of FCS, the Common Standards Monitoring work undertaken by the country agencies was used to provide data for the last two parameters. However, this was essentially a baseline assessment, rather than pure monitoring, as many areas have only been surveyed once.

The overall judgement for reefs was 'unknown' for all parameters as there was no basis upon which to judge possible trends. It is likely that when the next report is due (in five years’ time) we will have more idea of trends.

Results of the UK's FCS reporting can be found on the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) website at:


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what funding his Department plans to provide to enable (a) local authorities to meet their responsibilities for adopting and maintaining new build and re-developing sustainable drainage systems and (b) water companies to meet their new responsibilities to adopt and maintain private sewers and lateral drains. [246115]

Huw Irranca-Davies: We are exploring funding options for the long-term maintenance of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) adopted by local authorities. Any net new burdens on local authorities will be fully funded.

The cost to water and sewerage companies of maintaining private sewers and lateral drains following their transfer from 2011 will be met through charges to customers generally, as is the case with the rest of the public sewerage infrastructure for which they are responsible.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) Ofwat and (b) the water industry on how to achieve risk-based standards for public sewerage systems. [246116]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA maintains regular contact with Ofwat on the development of Surface Water Management Plan guidance and associated local authority responsibilities. Surface Water Management Plans will inform the development of standards for the existing sewerage system reflected in water company investment programs.

DEFRA also chairs a stakeholder working group including Ofwat and Water UK (the representative body for the water industry) which is examining a design and construction standard for new sewers. Currently the water industry is harmonising their various company standards and expect to present them to the working group in spring 2009.

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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) Ofwat and (b) the water industry on funding of flood protection for critical infrastructure at risk of flooding. [246117]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The statutory Social and Environmental Guidance to Ofwat published in draft in February 2008, and in final form in September 2008, made clear that in their business plans water companies are expected to consider the resilience of their assets and that Ofwat is expected to ensure companies are able to invest in essential works. Ofwat has also issued guidance for water companies on flood risk assessment and identification of priority investments in preparation for the 2009 price review. The proposals in company business plans are now being scrutinised by Ofwat as part of the price review for 2010 to 2015.

Stray Dogs

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost to the public purse of kennelling stray dogs has been in each year since the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 was implemented; and what estimate he has made of those costs in the next three years. [242551]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA does not collect the data requested.

On 6 April 2008, section 68 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act relieved the police of the responsibility of dealing with stray dogs. Since the commencement of the Act, additional funding of £4 million a year, through the revenue support grant for the three years of the comprehensive spending review period, has been provided to local authorities in England and Wales to cover the additional costs of providing an out of hours service for stray dogs.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many local authorities provide kennelling facilities for the use of stray dogs only; [242552]

(2) how many local authorities offer a 24 hour, seven day per week service for catching and kennelling stray dogs; what provision local authorities make for the management of stray dogs where no such continuous service is provided; and what recent guidance his Department has issued on the provision of such services; [242590]

(3) how many dog wardens are employed by local authorities; [242717]

(4) how many stray dogs have been kennelled by local authorities in each of the last three years. [242718]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA does not collect the data requested.

Guidance on local authorities’ duties regarding stray dogs was published in October 2007 and can be found on the DEFRA website.

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Tidal Power: River Severn

Martin Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with angling and fishing organisations on the impact of a Severn barrage on fish stocks in the Severn estuary and associated waters. [244318]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Neither the Secretary of State nor I have had any such discussions with angling or fishing organisations, but the matter was raised with me at a meeting I had with the chairs of the Environment Agency's Regional Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committees on 4 December.

Martin Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what input his Department has had to the Government's Severn Tidal Power Feasibility study. [244319]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA has played a central role in contributing advice to the cross-Government Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, in particular regarding the potential environmental impacts of a tidal power scheme in the Severn. The Department is working closely with Natural England, the Government’s statutory conservation adviser, which has provided supporting scientific evidence and advice on environmental issues.

The Secretary of State is a member of the Severn Tidal Power Ministerial group, and DEFRA officials represent the Department on the project board that oversees the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study. Some members of DEFRA and Natural England staff have also been seconded into the Severn Tidal Power team within the Department of Energy and Climate Change.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the volume of water lost to leaks through water pipes on an annual basis; and how much he estimates is lost through leaks from water pipes of each individual water company. [246781]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Water companies report annual leakage figures to Ofwat in June as part of their annual regulatory returns. Figures reported for 2007-08 show that total water company leakage was 3,291 Megalitres/day, down from 5,112 Megalitres/day in 1994-95. In 2007-08 all water companies met their leakage targets and total industry leakage fell by 3.7 per cent (127 Megalitres/day) on a like for like basis from 2006-07 levels.

Leakage performance for individual companies in 2007-08 is as follows(1):

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