Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 177)

WEDNESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2000

MR NICK RAYNSFORD, MR JEFF JACOBS AND MR LESTER HICKS

Chairman

  160. Mr Raynsford, you are going to have to go away and you are going to have to give us a short note which explains in not simplistic terms but simple terms what it is you have decided to do about this.
  (Mr Raynsford) I am very happy to do that, Chairman.

Mr Bennett

  161. What effect do you think PPG 25 will have?
  (Mr Raynsford) I think it will have a very significant effect. It is already having an effect because it is there in draft and authorities are already giving more attention to the issue as a result of it. Clearly the recent floods have acted as the wake-up call, as John Prescott has said, and authorities are obviously eager to get the new PPG 25, which is why I am keen we issue it as soon as is reasonably possible.

  162. How many houses will not be built as a result of it?
  (Mr Raynsford) I cannot say.

  163. You do not have any assessment of the impact you think it will have?
  (Mr Raynsford) I cannot because there are so many variables. It will almost certainly result in some development not happening that otherwise would have but equally it is likely to lead to development being moved because of the sequential approach from one site to another. In that case there will still be development but it will be in a different location.

  164. Do you not think that PPG 25 is still going to be too vague? We have certainly had criticism from the Housebuilders' Federation and from others that it is still going to be too vague.
  (Mr Raynsford) I do not believe it will be. I think the response to the consultation so far has shown that most of the respondents believed that it was in its initial form, and I have indicated we are going to tighten it up and toughen it up, seen as helpful and clear by a very high proportion of respondents.

  165. When you were answering earlier questions about sustainable drainage you mentioned the Building Regulations as part of it.
  (Mr Raynsford) Yes.

  166. When?
  (Mr Raynsford) We are currently completing the review of Part H of the Building Regulations which deal with sustainable drainage. We will subsequently be looking at Part A which deals with issues of general stability. Another issue which we are beginning to look at is the question of electrical matters which are outside the Building Regulations at the moment but there is some question as to whether or not they should be brought within the Building Regulations. There is work on all three of those but the most advanced is on sustainable drainage which we hope to be able to issue certainly next year. We have to go through a series of stages with Building Regulations, they have to be considered by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee before they have to be issued. We are at an advanced stage on Part H and we are already undertaking the stability issues in Part A.

  167. You cannot be any more precise than next year?
  (Mr Raynsford) Not at this stage.

  168. If you are actually pressing to make sure that there is sustainable drainage so far as the built environment is concerned, is it not logical to do something more so far as MAFF is concerned to make sure that water does not run off much quicker off farmland?
  (Mr Raynsford) I agree this is one of the areas where there needs to be close co-operation and discussion between departments because the sustainable drainage issue does apply equally to development and to agricultural uses.

  169. What about the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive? This has been in gestation for 15 years, is that not rather long?
  (Mr Raynsford) We have actually implemented the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive in relation to the issues that are part of our responsibility.

  170. That is just the point I am trying to make to you, that it is illogical to be worried about water running off car parks if you are not equally worried about water running off farmland, given that we have just heard from the Environment Agency that they are equal contributors to the current floods.
  (Mr Raynsford) All I can say is that on the area which is within our remit, which is land drainage, we have already implemented the EIA Directive. Our colleagues at MAFF are aware of concerns about the length of time that has taken over the matter which is in their remit.

  Mr Bennett: Thank you.

Chairman

  171. It is not very good, Minister, is it? While I cannot profess to be altogether astonished at the behaviour of MAFF, which has taken from August to find a date to actually speak to me, you cannot on the one hand say to us "yes, we are in close consultation. Yes, we are working with the Environment Agency. Yes, we are toughening up this Directive. Yes, we are doing out bit of it except, unfortunately, the other half of the equation is totally missing".
  (Mr Raynsford) All I can say is you know the process of Government very well and I am here before you and I am able to speak for my Department and we have implemented the EIA Directive that is within our remit.

  172. You are suggesting that we ought to talk to other people as well, are you not?
  (Mr Raynsford) That obviously would be your decision.

Christine Butler

  173. Would you be wanting to promote extra capacity wherever possible?
  (Mr Raynsford) Capacity in what sense?

  174. Capacity to contain floods, not defences. I am talking mainly about fluvial flooding, which we have experienced recently. Speaking for your Department, because obviously you cannot for the others, would you be wanting to engage in that as something that needs serious consideration to increase capacity where it has been lost?
  (Mr Raynsford) Yes.

Mr Blunt

  175. Does that mean bringing into play non-functional flood plains? What is a non-functional flood plain?
  (Mr Raynsford) The functional flood plains are those which serve to cope with excess water at times of very serious pressure.

Chairman

  176. Which still exist.
  (Mr Raynsford) Which certainly exist and which need to be there to perform that function. The other type of flood plain I was describing is those flood plains that it is important to protect against the risk of flooding where you certainly do not want Central London to become a functional flood plain in the event of a serious problem.

  177. Minister, you have been very patient. It is very nice to hear you talk about a subject you know, and long may that continue. Thank you very much, doubtless we shall have words again.
  (Mr Raynsford) Doubtless we will, thank you.


 
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