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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 31 January 2002

TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND

THE REGIONS

Ashford International Station

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations he has received on the closure of Ashford International Station on the weekend of the France v. England rugby match in Paris; and if he will make a statement. [26888]

Mr. Spellar: My understanding is that the possible closure of Ashford over this weekend has yet to be confirmed, and that, currently, the station is scheduled to be open on Saturday 2 March, although possibly closed on the Friday and Sunday. These timings are provisional and therefore subject to change.

Although occasional weekend closures are an inevitable consequence of the essential work for the channel tunnel rail link (CTLR) currently being undertaken at and around Ashford, the timing of this particular closure, if confirmed, is particularly unfortunate. I therefore propose to raise the matter with the company building the link, Union Railways.

The CTLR project itself remains on time and on budget and when section 1 opens in 2003 the people of Kent will of course benefit from improved international rail services on a purpose-built high-speed line that will free up capacity on existing track.

Wind Power

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to simplify the process by which a wind turbine deployer may achieve planning consent in a commercially viable time-frame. [29284]

Ms Keeble: We already promote a positive approach to planning for all types of renewable energy projects. We have initiated the preparation of regional renewable energy assessments to encourage a more strategic approach to planning for renewable energy at regional and local levels, which will help to facilitate planning permission for individual proposals.

Our Planning Green Paper published on 12 December 2001 includes proposals to deliver faster and more responsive planning decisions across the board. One element of this approach is to encourage developers to discuss proposals with local people and local planning authorities before applications for planning permission are submitted. I strongly commend this to those seeking permission for wind turbines and other renewable energy projects.

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Empty Properties

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what his estimate is of the (a) annual cost and (b) total value of the empty properties owned by (i) his Department, (ii) his agencies and (iii) other public bodies for which he has had responsibility in each of the last four years. [30072]

Dr. Whitehead: This information is available only at disproportionate cost.

Sustainable Development

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how the proposals in the Planning Green Paper will deliver sustainable development; and if he will make a statement. [29897]

Ms Keeble: The consultation document "Planning: delivering a fundamental change" states in paragraph 1.2


Housing (Birmingham)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what his estimate is of the average change in annual revenue available for financing investment in Birmingham's housing revenue account as a result of the Government's rent restructuring proposals, based on (a) the continuation of the current subsidy system and (b) the abolition of the council tenant's tax. [30353]

Ms Keeble: Local authorities are responsible for setting their own rents and budgets—including the resources to be devoted to investment—based on local priorities and other factors. There is no council tenant's tax.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answers of 10 December 2001, Official Report, column 573W, on housing (Birmingham), what his definition of debt financing charges is. [30389]

Ms Keeble: The figures I provided in my previous answer related to the amount the Department made available to Birmingham in housing revenue account subsidy towards the administration costs of managing its debt finance. We do not have figures for the cost to Birmingham city council of servicing their housing attributable debt.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what information he has collated on housing management costs per dwelling for (a) all local authority housing, (b) all RSL housing, (c) all metropolitan authority housing, (d) Birmingham city council housing and (e) RSL housing in Birmingham. [30391]

Ms Keeble: On the basis of the definition used for the purposes of best value and Audit Commission Performance Indicators for 2000–01, the average annual management cost per dwelling for all local authorities in England was £654. The average for all metropolitan

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authority housing was £496 and the average for Birmingham city council housing was £634. The Housing Corporation produces figures for the RSL sector. The average annual management cost per dwelling for the largest 400 English RSLs in 2000–01 was £536. No figures are available for all RSL housing in Birmingham.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate he has made of the change in the annual cost to (a) Birmingham city council's non-HRA revenue budget and (b) the Exchequer of financing housing benefit for Birmingham tenants if transfer of the local authority housing stock to a registered social landlord goes ahead. [30350]

Ms Keeble: The estimated housing benefit cost over three years to be contributed from Birmingham city council's general fund is £17.14 million.

The estimated Exchequer contribution to housing benefit cost for Birmingham tenants if transfer of the local authority housing stock to registered social landlord goes ahead is £63.63 million over 30 years.

Housing (Loans)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what information he has collated on the interest rates for loans taken out by registered social landlords in each of the last five years. [30352]

Ms Keeble: Information of this detail is held by the Housing Corporation only on a commercial in confidence basis.

Road Accidents

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effect on the level of road accidents, broken down by type of (a) accident, (b) injury and (c) victim, of the operation of (i) mandatory and (ii) advisory 20 mph limits. [30326]

Mr. Jamieson: TRL research on urban speed management methods published in 1998 (TRL Report 363) found only an average 1 mph drop in speeds and no discernible accident reduction in accidents in 20 mph limits using only signs. Advisory speed limits are not normally approved in England and Wales. However, the more successful 20 mph zones that use self enforcing traffic calming features achieved average speed reductions of around 10 mph which produced a 70 per cent. reduction in child pedestrian accidents and a 48 per cent. reduction in child cyclist accidents.

Ordnance Survey Trading Fund

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what return (a) he has specified as a target for the Ordnance Survey Trading Fund over the period from 1999 to 2004 and (b) the Ordnance Survey Trading Fund has delivered in each accounting year from 1999 to date. [30298]

Ms Keeble: The Ordnance Survey Framework document states in a Treasury minute dated 29 March 1999, that the financial objective desirable of achievement by

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Ordnance Survey Trading Fund for the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2004 shall be to achieve a return averaged over the period as a whole of at least 9 per cent, in the form of a surplus on ordinary activities before interest expressed as a percentage of average capital employed.

The return on capital employed for each of the years in question is as follows:

1999–20002000–01
Profit (£ million)12.5(1)27.3
Capital employed (£ million)45.168.7
Return on capital employed (per cent.)27.639.6

(1) Includes an exceptional payment of £19.25 million received from the Automobile Association (AA)


Over the two years, 1999–2000 and 2000–01, the average return on capital employed was 33.5 per cent., including the exceptional item in 2000–01.


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