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6 Jan 2010 : Column 358W—continued

Office of Water Services: Internet

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what redesigns of websites operated by the Office of Water Services have taken place since 27 June 2007; and what the (a) cost to the public purse and (b) date of completion of each such redesign was. [306211]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I have asked Ofwat to write to the hon. Member for Monmouth directly with this information.


Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of trends in (a) the rat population and (b) the incidence of household rat infestations. [308637]

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Huw Irranca-Davies: A copy of the latest report on rodent presence in domestic properties as revealed by the English House Condition Survey data for 2002-03 and 2003-04 has been placed in the House of Commons Library. The key finding is that the occurrences of rats inside and outside properties in these years are not significantly different from those observed in 2001.

The next report covering the period up to 2006 should be available in 2010, although at present there is no set date for publication.


Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects private sewers and lateral drains connected to public sewers to be transferred to water company ownership; and if he will make a statement. [308070]

Huw Irranca-Davies: On 15 December 2008, the Government announced that the transfer of all private sewers and lateral drains linked to the public sewerage system to water company ownership would take place from 2011. Transfer is the only comprehensive solution to the range of problems presented by private sewers.

I anticipate consulting on the content of regulations to effect transfer in the new year, prior to them being presented to Parliament for approval.


Nick Herbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what species of wildlife (a) his Department and (b) Natural England (i) has re-introduced to England since 1997 and (ii) plans to re-introduce to England. [308570]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA itself has not reintroduced, and does not plan to reintroduce, any species to England.

Since 1997 Natural England and its predecessor bodies have, with partners, re-introduced into England the following four species, which had previously become extinct:

Natural England is involved in planning the reintroduction of the following two species into England:

These projects will only go ahead if the required licences are secured and they are shown to meet internationally agreed guidelines produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Nick Herbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much (a) his Department and (b) Natural England has spent on re-introducing species of wildlife to England in each year since 1997. [308571]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA itself has not spent money on re-introducing species of wildlife to England.

Natural England has spent the following amounts on re-introducing wildlife species in England:

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They plan to spend £52,000 in 2009-10.

The figures quoted are part of the cost of Natural England's Species Recovery programme, of which re-introduction is one component.

Information regarding any such expenditure by Natural England's predecessor, English Nature, is not readily available at this time.

Communities and Local Government

Aerials: Planning Permission

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent progress has been made in his Department's review of permitted development rights for telecommunications. [307830]

Mr. Ian Austin: The Department has recently reviewed the permitted development rights for telecommunications.

The Killian-Pretty progress report, published on 30 July 2009, explained that in relation to telecommunications equipment, the Government have considered whether the existing permitted development rights contained in part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order should be altered and whether the system of prior approval for stand alone telephone masts below 15 metres and certain rooftop mast installations should be amended to require a full planning application. It had decided to make no substantive change to the current regime.

However, in order to ensure that operators make the best possible use of existing sites, the Government intends to amend planning policy guidance in due course, to strengthen the requirements for operators to demonstrate that they have considered alternative sites and explain why they have been rejected. We will also consider how requirements for mast sharing can be further addressed in any revision of the code of best practice.

Affordable Housing

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps his Department has taken to encourage pension funds to invest in new social housing. [308271]

Mr. Ian Austin: The Board of the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), the regulator of social housing in England, has recently approved and published its Private Finance Strategy. The strategy identifies the future funding requirement of the registered social landlord (RSL) sector and the funding capacity in both the banking and capital markets.

In the past 18 months RSLs have raised over £1.6 billion through the capital markets. Investors in these bond issues include both pension and life funds. The finance raised will fund both new development of social housing and investment in the existing stock of RSLs.

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Affordable Housing: Derbyshire

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many affordable homes have been built in (a) Chesterfield constituency and (b) Derbyshire in each of the last 12 months. [309017]

Mr. Ian Austin: Information on affordable homes built is not available by constituency.

The HCA has published statistics on the number of affordable homes delivered under the National Affordable Housing Programme for up to the first six months of 2009-10.

The following table shows the number of new build homes delivered through HCA funding in Derbyshire county during each of the 12 months to September 2009.

New build affordable homes provided with funding through the HCA

Derbyshire county

October 2008


November 2008


December 2008


January 2009


February 2009


March 2009


April 2009


May 2009


June 2009


July 2009


August 2009


September 2009


Total with HCA funding(1)


(1) The figures have been rounded to the nearest 10, so the totals may not sum due to rounding.

Total affordable housing supply includes social rent, intermediate rent and Low Cost Home Ownership. Not all affordable housing is provided by new build completions, as some supply can come from acquisitions. The latest data on total gross affordable supply relate to 2008-09. In 2008-09, 60 affordable homes were provided in Chesterfield borough council and 540 in Derbyshire county council. These figures are from the Homes and Communities Agency and local authority returns to CLG (new build and acquisitions).

Arms Length Management Organisations

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what oversight functions the (a) Local Government Ombudsman, (b) Tenant Services Authority, (c) Homes and Communities Agency and (d) district auditor has in relation to arms' length management organisations. [308311]

Mr. Ian Austin: The jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman is to investigate complaints by members of the public against local authorities and their ALMOs. It will only consider complaints after individuals have gone through these organisations' own complaints procedures.

The Tenants Services Authority was set up on 1 December 2008 and assumed the regulatory role for registered social landlords previously held by the Housing Corporation. The Tenant Services Authority will-subject
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to parliamentary approval-take on the role of regulating local authority social housing, including ALMOs, from April 2010.

The Homes and Communities Agency was set up on 1 December 2008 and has day-to-day responsibility for delivery of the Decent Homes programme, and provides support and guidance to ALMOs on the delivery of their investment programmes.

In order to access its Decent Homes funding an ALMO must first be inspected by the Housing Inspectorate which is part of the Audit Commission. The ALMO must achieve at least a two star rating at inspection. The Audit Commission provides advisory services to local authorities and ALMOs seeking to achieve two stars at inspection. The Commission can also, on request, provide tailored consultancy services to ALMOs seeking re-inspection.

Building Alterations

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of funds for independent living adaptations and equipment was spent on (a) owner-occupied, (b) private rented, (c) local authority-owned and (d) housing association housing by each local authority in each of the last five years. [308400]

Mr. Ian Austin: Local authorities are required to complete and return an annual claim and monitoring form to the Department for Disabled Facilities Grants. The information collected through this exercise was recently expanded and now includes a breakdown of expenditure on Disabled Facilities Grant by housing tenure (excluding expenditure on adaptations to local authority tenants which is funded separately through the Housing Revenue Account). The most recent data collection exercise (2009-10) is nearly complete; this was the first year that these data included a breakdown by tenure and we will be publishing the figures for 2008-09 early in the new year. Prior to 2008-09 this information was not collected.

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding he has allocated for the purposes of making alterations to homes in order to meet higher environmental standards in (a) 2009-10 and (b) 2010-11. [308769]

Mr. Ian Austin: The Business Plan Statistical Appendix gives a breakdown of local authorities' recorded and proposed expenditure on capital works, including replacement of windows, doors, central heating systems and installation of insulation, all of which may contribute directly to improving the environmental performance of dwellings as well as delivering other benefits. The latest figures show that these works account for £751.2 million (26.6 per cent. of recorded spend) in 2008-09 and £832.7 million (29.4 per cent. of proposed spending) in 2009-10. This does not include spending by registered social landlords.

The Social Housing Energy Saving programme, which is administered by the Homes and Communities Agency, has allocated £54.5 million in 2009-10, and £23.9 million for 2010-11, for works to install cavity wall insulation in harder to treat social rented properties.

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Community Relations: Finance

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to page 12 of his Department's resource Accounts for 2008-09, HC449, what the reasons are for the delay in various Preventing Extremism programmes; and what steps he is taking to reduce them. [308309]

Mr. Malik: The under-spend, as set out in the Department's resource accounts for 2008-09, was a result of minor delays in delivering or paying for some projects, which were therefore moved into 2009-10. Those projects are now proceeding.

Conservation Areas

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what single conservation areas the Homes and Communities Agency has established; and which local authorities each area covers. [308052]

John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 October 2009, Official Report, column 136W, in response to this same question.

Council Housing

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department has provided guidance to local authorities on the practice known as gatekeeping in relation to tenants who remain in properties after their notice to leave has expired. [309048]

Mr. Ian Austin: The Department has issued statutory guidance to local authorities about responding to tenants of private landlords who apply to the local authority for housing assistance following receipt of a notice of intention to recover possession from their landlord. The guidance, at paragraph 8.30 et seq of the 'Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities', was issued in July 2006. The code of guidance is available in the House of Commons Library and on this Department's website at:

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