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8 Jun 2010 : Column 129Wcontinued
Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his policy is on the Green Belt, with particular reference to applications being made to develop land designated as Green Belt; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill [holding answer 7 June 2010]:Policy on the Green Belt is currently set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 2, Green Belts (PPG2), published in 1995. PPG2 establishes a presumption against inappropriate development on Green Belt. If a proposal for such development is received, the local planning authority has to consider whether any harm to the Green Belt would be outweighed by other considerations, and whether very special circumstances exist to justify planning permission.
In the Coalition Agreement the Government stated that it will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development. Announcements on the future
of planning policy will be made in due course. However, the Agreement also undertakes to ensure that the protection of Green Belt by local planning authorities is maintained.
Finally, I have already announced the Government's intention to rapidly abolish regional spatial strategies and return focus on planning and housing to local councils. Given that the regional spatial strategies have themselves been a source of 'top down' pressure to remove Green Belt protection their removal will strengthen the position of local authorities in protecting Green Belt.
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will make it his policy to rationalise the number of social housing associations; and if he will make a statement. 
Grant Shapps: Housing associations are independent organisations responsible for their own aims, performance and management.
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward proposals to reduce the salary levels of senior officials running social housing associations; and if he will make a statement. 
Grant Shapps: As independent organisations, it is up to the board of each housing association to determine the level of remuneration to award its executives. However, given that many associations receive public funding through the National Affordable Housing Programme in order to deliver new affordable housing, there is a public interest in associations performing their functions efficiently and economically.
The Government believe that transparency and public scrutiny are key to ensuring that pay decisions are fully justifiable. Housing associations are required to disclose publicly the remuneration paid to their highest paid director (which is typically the chief executive) and the total cost of their directors. The Government believe that associations should make available as much information as is needed to reassure their tenants and the public that they are managing their resources as efficiently as possible.
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homes with (a) three or four and (b) five bedrooms he expects to be built in each region in each of the next five years. 
Andrew Stunell [holding answer 7 June 2010]: Statistics on the proportion of new-build completions each year that are houses and flats, split by number of bedrooms, are published on the CLG website in live table 254 at the following link:
Estimates have not been made by the Government of the number of new homes of each type that will be started or completed in future years.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) if he will take steps to remove regional housing targets in the West Midlands in advance of the introduction of primary legislation on regional spatial strategies; 
(2) what timetable he has set for the abolition of regional spatial strategies in the West Midlands; and if he will make a statement. 
Greg Clark: The Government are absolutely committed to abolishing Regional Strategies, including regional housing targets. In advance of legislation, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to all local authority leaders and the Planning Inspectorate confirming the Government's intention and that letter can be used as a material consideration in decisions on applications and local development frameworks. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library of the House.
Dr Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his policy is on funding of Pathfinder housing areas; and if he will make a statement. 
Andrew Stunell: The Government are committed to a range of housing programmes including initiatives to improve the quality of homes, improve access to housing and bring empty homes into use. The Housing Market Renewal programme was included in the £6.2 billion of savings from Government spending in 2010-11 announced on 24 May, reducing the current capital programme budget announced in December 2009 by £50 million. This reduction is subject to consultation. Budgets for 2010-11 will be confirmed after the Emergency Budget is completed on June 22.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effects on his Department's funding for Housing Market Renewal areas of changes in public expenditure in 2010 announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 24 May 2010. 
Andrew Stunell: The Housing Market Renewal programme was included in the £6.2 billion of savings from Government spending in 2010-11 announced on 24 May. The current capital budget of £286 million announced in December 2009 has been reduced by £50 million. The mechanism by which this reduction is achieved will be subject to consultation. Individual allocations for 2010-11 will be confirmed after the emergency Budget is completed on June 22.
Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he plans to respond to the South East Regional Select Committee's First Report of Session 2009-10, on Housing in the South East. 
Andrew Stunell [holding answer 7 June 2010]: Yes, the Government will be responding to this report in the near future.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance from his Department is in effect in respect of on-going (a) examinations in public of local development framework plans and (b) core strategy hearings. 
Robert Neill: General guidance on the assessment of and procedures for examining local development frameworks which include core strategies is set out by the Planning Inspectorate. This can be found online at:
In addition my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to all local authority leaders and the Planning Inspectorate confirming the Government's intention to abolish regional strategies and housing targets and saying that he expects them to have regard to his letter as a material consideration in decisions on applications and local development frameworks. A copy of the letter has been placed in the House Library.
Christopher Leslie: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects the review of local government finance to (a) commence and (b) conclude. 
Robert Neill: The coalition Government are fully committed to a review of local government finance and we will make a further announcement in due course. But our first priority must be to sort out the public finances and to get on with our agreed programme of delivering radical devolution and greater financial autonomy to local government.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information his Department holds on the number of employees of each local authority who received an annual salary of £100,000 or above in the most recent year for which figures are available. 
Robert Neill: The information requested is not held centrally. Our town hall transparency proposals will ensure that senior local government salaries are published in an open and standardised format for public scrutiny.
Christopher Leslie: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in what circumstances those resident in a local authority area will be able to initiate a local referendum. 
Andrew Stunell: As we made clear in our Programme for Government, published on 20 May, we will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue. The Government intend to include the necessary statutory provisions as part of legislation to devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions which was announced in the Queen's Speech for this parliamentary session.
Mr Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what costs his Department incurred in contesting each judicial review of local government reorganisation for (a) Devon, (b) Norfolk and (c) Suffolk. 
Grant Shapps: The current costs incurred by the Department for legal proceedings in relation to local government reorganisation in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk are set out in the following table:
|Challenge against the Boundary Committee where the Secretary of State has been named as an interested party brought by:||Legal costs to Department (£)|
In addition, Devon and Norfolk county councils have challenged the decision of the Secretary of State in relation to unitary councils for Exeter and Norwich cities. The High Court has yet to hand down judgment in this challenge and hence the Department's legal costs arising from it are yet to be determined. However, to date the Department has incurred costs of £62,065 on this challenge.
The Government introduced a Bill into the House of Lords on 26 May which will stop the restructuring of councils in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk. This will save the taxpayer £40 million in unnecessary restructuring costs.
Dr Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effect of mid-year reductions in local authority budgets on contracts with the voluntary and charitable sector. 
Robert Neill: The contribution which local authorities are being asked to make this year to enable the Government to take immediate action to tackle the United Kingdom's unprecedented deficit should not impact on the delivery of essential front-line services. It will be for individual councils to make decisions about where savings are found. We have retained formula grant funding at the level approved by Parliament for 2010-11 (£29 billion), and have also gone further by lifting restrictions on how local government spends its money, by de-ringfencing more grants. This gives councils the maximum flexibility to focus budgets on those services which local people most want to see.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects small business rate relief to become automatic; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: "The Coalition: our programme for government" sets out our commitment to find a practical way to make small business rate relief automatic. We are considering options and will make an announcement about how we propose to proceed in due course.
Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the cost of cancelling the demand for retrospective business rates made upon newly separately-rated port companies. 
Robert Neill: I will write to the hon. Member with an answer when the data are available and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
Laura Sandys: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations his Department has received on retrospective business rates on firms in ports in the last 12 months. 
Robert Neill: A number of representations have been received, predominantly from MPs on behalf of their constituents and the ports lobby group itself. Most of these centre around the request for Government to cancel the backdated liability incurred.
Having considered these representations my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State issued regulations suspending the collection of such backdated rates in 2010-11 and consistent with the coalition agreement, the Government are urgently exploring ways to remove certain backdated rates liabilities.
I also met with the ports lobby group on 3 June 2010, to discuss their concerns in person.
Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans he has for the future ownership of the Ordnance Survey; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: Ordnance Survey is Great Britain's national mapping agency and its data underpin the delivery of many vital public services. I am not currently considering changes to the ownership.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will issue guidance to planning inspectors on the award of costs in respect of large planning appeals. 
Robert Neill: Guidance to planning inspectors on the awarding of costs is contained within the Communities and Local Government Circular 03/2009 'Costs awards in appeals and other planning proceedings' published on 6 April 2009.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he plans to publish guidance on the effects of the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies and transitional arrangements which should apply; and what guidance he expects local planning authorities to apply in making decisions on large strategic applications before such guidance is published. 
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