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Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if a Regulatory Impact Assessment will be undertaken before new standards and controls are introduced in respect of emissions from (a) incinerators of animal waste and (b) pet crematoria. 
Mr. Hill: A Regulatory Impact Assessment was undertaken of the then proposed Waste Incineration Directive, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has since commissioned a study by ADAS Consulting to assess more accurately how many small animal carcase incinerators are in operation. A preliminary Regulatory Impact Assessment was issued by MAFF last November for the draft EU Animal By-Products Regulation. In addition, AEA Technology has been commissioned by MAFF to measure emissions at a representative sample of small animal waste incinerators to provide a firm basis for determining proportionate standards. MAFF will be making available the two studies when they are completed, subject to commercial confidentiality considerations.
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Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the environmental benefits and disbenefits of using different fuels to incinerate animal waste. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what communications his Department has had with National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Services Ltd. concerning the development of UK standards for emissions from small incinerators of animal waste, in the context of the European Union Waste Incineration Directive and proposed animal waste directive; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to ensure that the pet crematoria industry is not economically damaged by EU measures. 
As regards the current draft EU Animal By-Products Regulation, it is our aim in the negotiation of this regulation to secure requirements akin to those in the Waste Incineration Directive for animal carcase incinerators on premises where there is an incineration capacity of over 50kg/hr, and proportionate, less stringent, requirements where the incineration capacity is smaller. The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria will be among the interested organisations consulted during the negotiation of the regulation.
Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his plans to control leylandii hedges and the proposed timetable for their implementation. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: In August last year, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment announced our commitment to introduce legislation that would give local authorities powers to deal with complaints about problem hedges, including leylandii. Although it was not possible to make provision for such a Bill in the Queen's Speech, the issue is being taken forward as a private Member's Bill by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor). The High Hedges Bill was introduced on 17 January and is due to have its Second Reading on 9 March.
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the levels of spending on strategic planning per head of population in (a) Staffordshire and (b) each other county of England (i) in the current year and (ii) in each of the last three years. 
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Ms Beverley Hughes: Local authority expenditure on strategic planning is not separately identified in any of the returns made by local government to central Government, so we are unable to provide the information requested.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 26 January 2001, Official Report, column 732W, on eligibility criteria for the Powershift programme, what meetings Ministers in his Department have had over the past 12 months with vehicle manufacturers to encourage them to manufacture production line gas vehicles; what other measures his Department has taken in pursuit of his objective; and what the response has been from the vehicle manufacturers. 
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will codify the way in which the requirements for developments in guideline areas are brought to the attention of planning committees. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: This is an operational matter for local planning authorities' own discretion. The Local Government Association's "Probity in Planning" includes guidelines for officer reports to planning committees. This advises that relevant points will include a clear exposition of the development plan, site-related history, and any other material considerations.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how breaches of codes of conduct on relationships between planning officers and (a) applicants and (b) planning consultants are recorded. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: There is no centrally-prescribed method for recording breaches of codes of conduct. However, the Local Government Ombudsman's guidance note "Devising a Complaints System" gives advice to local authorities on conducting an internal investigation of a complaint, including the recording of its outcome. Breaches of codes of conduct may also be the subject of investigation and formal report by the Local Government Ombudsman.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what plans he has to (a) clarify and (b) amend the rules by which application dates are determined in planning cases; 
Ms Beverley Hughes: It is for applicants to decide when to make a formal planning application to the local planning authority. This may or may not follow pre-application discussions. All applications made to an authority are recorded in that authority's planning register. The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 requires local planning authorities to give an applicant notice of their decision within eight
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weeks of receipt of a valid planning application. However, the applicant and the local planning authority may agree in writing an extended period for determining the application, unless the applicant has already given notice of appeal to the Secretary of State. We have no plans to amend the existing provisions.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the scope that planning officers have for interpreting the provisions relating to guideline areas without the permission of elected representatives. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: Under section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, all planning applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan for the area unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended, provides for planning applications to be determined by an officer on behalf of the council, in accordance with clearly stated and published rules. Elected members decide the policies in the development plan and determine the framework of other policies, standards and guidance within which applications are considered. Elected members also set the terms of any delegation agreement, including the circumstances in which an officer's delegated power to make a decision may not be exercised. The Local Government Association's "Development Control: Delegation Arrangements" advises that common exceptions to delegated powers will be applications which are contrary to the policies in the development plan for the area and contrary to approved council policies.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to reduce the number of signatures required for a petition in planning cases in low density areas. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: There is no prescribed number of signatures that constitutes a petition for planning purposes. In determining planning applications, local planning authorities are required to take into account relevant representations made to them within the time limit specified. It is for authorities to decide what weight to give to such representations, having regard to the circumstances of the particular case.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will (a) allow objectors to apply for costs when participating in planning appeals and (b) increase and standardise the timescale for objections to be submitted in planning cases. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: (a) Fundamental to the working of the planning system, including planning appeals, is the fact that each party meets its own expenses. Thus parties to planning appeals going to inquiry normally meet their own costs. However, the Secretary of State has the power
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to order one party to pay another's costs where one party has behaved unreasonably and has caused another to incur unnecessary expense as a result.
(b) Streamlined statutory procedures for handling planning appeals were introduced in August last year following public consultation. These require other parties to submit their comments or statements of case to the Secretary of State in the same timescale within which local planning authorities and appellants submit their statements. The operation of the new procedures is being monitored but we have no current plans to change them.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will require local authorities to place a time limit on pre-application discussions between planning officers and applicants or their representatives. 
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to (a) prevent planning committees from being held in holiday periods and (b) permit objectors to make closing statements at planning appeals. 
(b) The statutory rules for handling planning appeals prescribe the arrangements for parties making statements at hearings or inquiries. The rules already make provision for closing statements by objectors in particular circumstances but inspectors have discretion to allow them in other circumstances. DETR Circular 5/2000 "Planning Appeals: Procedure (Including Inquiries into Called-in Planning Applications)" provides guidance on the procedure at hearings and inquiries.
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