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Ms Buck: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to assist local authorities in the implementation of their duties under (a) the Homelessness Act 2002 and (b) Government targets on the reduction of families supported by local authorities in bed and breakfast accommodation. [67498]

Mr. McNulty: A new Homelessness Directorate has been established within my Department to take forward the new approach to tackling homelessness as set out in the Homelessness Directorate's report "More than a roof". Our specific measures include a £125 million investment in 2002–03 to tackle homelessness, and new legislation to strengthen the assistance to people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

The Homelessness Directorate published a good practice handbook to help local authorities conduct homelessness reviews and develop effective homelessness strategies. In addition, on 14 March 2002 the Homelessness Directorate invited local authorities to apply for £10 million funding, and submit proposals, for local homelessness strategies. These are being considered at the moment.

In addition, the Government has already provided local authorities with an additional £8 million per annum in Revenue Support Grant to help them meet their new statutory obligations under the Homelessness Act 2002. All housing authorities will also receive a share of an additional £10 million in 2002–03 to enable them to deliver our proposed Order to extend the priority need groups under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996.

Also in March 2002, a £35 million programme was launched to help local authorities ensure that by March 2004 no homeless family with children is in bed and breakfast hotels (B&B) other than in an emergency, and even then for no more than 6 weeks. On 17 June £25 million was allocated to the 42 local authorities with the highest number of families with children in B&B hotels to help them meet the March 2004 commitment.

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We will now be working with the next 40 highest using authorities to see how we can help them reduce B&B hotel numbers.

Authorities have also been sent a 10-point checklist of good practice outlining the key 'building blocks' in reducing B&B hotel use. Regional seminars have been held and examples of good practice have been shared through a newsletter and via the ODPM website.

Social Housing

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what plans he has to extend the pathfinder projects on social housing to other areas of England; and if he will make a statement; [67440]

Mr. Raynsford: We have invited nine areas to work with the Government to establish long-term pathfinder projects to tackle most acute instances of low demand for—importantly—both public and private housing. Low demand, which occurs mainly in the north of England with pockets in the Midlands, is not specific to either sector. We are making available £25 million from the Capital Modernisation Fund to assist the pathfinder projects in undertaking vital preparatory work.

We are not seeking to add to the already large number of pathfinder projects at the present time. Nonetheless, we want those local authorities not directly involved but who do experience low demand to have the opportunity to learn the lessons of this new approach. We are currently considering how best to share the knowledge that is gained.

Council Homes

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress made in reaching the Government's target for improving the standard of council homes by 2010. [67442]

Mr. McNulty: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 9 July 2002, Official Report, column 881W.

Hull Council

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to intervene in Hull council; and if he will make a statement. [67579]

Mr. Raynsford: Kingston upon Hull council is due to respond to the Audit Commission's Best Value Inspectors draft Corporate Governance Inspection Report by 11 July. The Audit Commission will then finalise the report following the advice of the Referral Panel, and if considered appropriate will make any recommendations for referral to the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Government will decide the best course of action to take on the final report when received.

Enterprise Bill

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what bilateral discussions he has had with the Secretary of State

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for Trade and Industry regarding the provision in the Enterprise Bill which includes housing associations in the proposed insolvency law; and if he will make a statement. [67445]

Mr. McNulty: Following inter-departmental correspondence my noble Friend Lord Sainsbury announced on 2 July in another place during second reading of the Enterprise Bill our intention to bring forward amendments that will provide exemption from the insolvency provisions within the Bill for all RSLs, whether they are companies or industrial and provident societies.

Mobile Phone Mast

Mr. Norman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which (a) local authorities, (b) environmental groups and (c) other groups have been consulted on the revised Code of Best Practice for mobile phone operators on mast development. [67616]

Mr. McNulty: The revised Code is being drawn up by the Telecommunications Working Group which comprises representatives of the mobile phone network industry and of central and local government. We have not consulted other groups about the revision of the Code.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent guidance he has given to the Planning Inspectorate regarding the weight to be given to health fears; in how many appeals this has been a determine factor in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [67781]

Mr. McNulty: Current planning guidance on telecommunications is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 (revised) (PPG8). PPG8 states that health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. Whether such matters are material in a particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. It is for the decision-maker (usually the local planning authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case.

However, it is the Government's firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Government's responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Government's view, if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them.

Planning Inspectors should take account of PPG8 when considering appeals involving telecommunications development. Information is not held centrally about appeal decisions for mobile phone masts.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister to which level of authority he plans to give structure planning powers upon their removal from county councils where the unitary authority is a county. [67190]

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Mr. Raynsford: Under the proposals in the Planning Green Paper structure plans are to be abolished. In areas where the unitary authority is a county, it would be responsible for preparing a local development framework.

Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will introduce a restraint on the numbers of sequential planning applications which a developer may submit to a planning authority in respect of the same property; how many recent representations he has received on this subject; and if he will make a statement. [68116]

Mr. McNulty: Local planning authorities already have powers to decline to determine an application for planning permission if, within the previous two years, the Secretary of State has refused a similar application called in by him, or has dismissed an appeal against the refusal of a similar application, provided in each case there has been no material change in circumstances. The Planning Green Paper said that we propose to extend these powers to allow local planning authorities to decline to determine applications where a similar application has been refused and not appealed, or a similar application is still under consideration by them, or is at appeal, or has been called in.

We received over 16,000 responses to the Green Paper. We intend to make a statement about taking forward Green Paper proposals before the summer recess.

Car Boot Sales

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to increase the powers of local authorities over the granting of permissions for car boot sales. [67995]

Mr. McNulty: On 24 January 2002 a consultation paper was issued on possible options for change to the current temporary use provisions, including car boot sales. The paper put forward six options for change as well as inviting proposals for alternative options. A preferred option was not given. The closing date for responses was 24 April 2002.

We have had a significant response to the consultation paper. The views of respondents are currently being carefully considered prior to taking decisions on the way forward.

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