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Environment Agency: Regional Boundaries

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: We have today confirmed the Government's acceptance of the regional boundaries of the Environment Agency proposed by the Environment Agency Advisory Committee, modified so that the region covered by the Welsh regional environment protection advisory committee corresponds to Wales alone. These proposals build on the successful river catchment based approach developed by the National Rivers Authority, while ensuring integration of pollution control functions in a way which maximises continuity and scope for close and responsive relationships at a local level. For those who deal with the agency, it will ensure the full benefits of bringing together the differenct environmental regulators while enabling continuation of the best features of existing arrangements. The agency will keep its boundaries under review, so that adjustments can be made in the light of experience if necessary.

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No. 2 Marsham Street: Redevelopment

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the 2 Marsham Street development.

Lord Lucas: The dreadful towers of the DoE's headquarters building have set a poor example to the nation. We now have a welcome opportunity to put right past mistakes and we are determined that the redevelopment of this site will set a better standard.

We need a development which will underpin the continuing regeneration of this part of Westminster by creating a welcoming environment, by attracting more life and providing for a mixture of uses. We also need to show how new and viable city centre redevelopment can complement its neighbourhood and fit in more closely with the existing urban fabric.

We have decided that these aims can best be secured through an open competition in which designers and architects will be invited to devise a new urban design framework for this site, which will make the most of the opportunity we now have. This competition will throw the field open to fresh and creative ideas for an urban design which will be attractive to those who live or work in the area.

The competition will concentrate initially on urban design rather than the architecture of individual buildings. We need a broad and flexible masterplan, not a detailed blueprint. There are several reasons for this:

Many aspects of urban design on a specific site can be considered independently of detailed decisions about the use of individual buildings. This is currently often overlooked in developments on this scale.

The Government are still considering whether it wishes to occupy part of the redevelopment, and if so how much.

We want to keep open the option of having the individual buildings which make up the redevelopment designed by different architects within the agreed urban design framework.

Concentrating on urban design issues will have an important additional advantage. Since detailed architectural issues will not be considered at this stage, designers will be able to prepare competition entries more easily and at less expense. We hope this will make it easier for smaller design practices to compete with the giants, and that many young architects, from the UK and abroad, will therefore be encouraged to enter. The best entries to the competition will be exhibited to the public next year.

The next step will be to prepare the brief for this competition. This we shall do with the help of professional advisers and in consultation with the local community. In particular our advisers will be asked to prepare an urban context study of the area which will form part of the brief for the competition. We will announce further details about this shortly.

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Planning Conditions: Development Control

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role planning conditions can play in improving the quality of development.

Lord Lucas: The Government consider that the sensitive use of conditions can improve development control and enhance public confidence in the planning system. If used properly, planning conditions can play a valuable role in enhancing the quality of development.

Advice to this effect is contained in the Department of the Environment Circular 11/95 (Welsh Office 35/95) which was published today. The circular updates policy advice and guidance on the use of planning conditions. Among other things, the circular reflects guidance in planning policy guidance notes on the use of conditions in respect of transport, retail development, contaminated land, noise, and affordable housing. The circular also gives additional advice on the use of conditions in respect of design and landscape, access for disabled people, nature conservation and endangered species; and contains many more examples of "model" conditions.

"Our Future Homes": Statements

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will explain their statement in Our Future Homes (Cm 2901, page 36) that allocation schemes for social tenancies "should balance specific housing needs against the need to support married couples who take a responsible approach to family life"; whether this announces an intention to discriminate against unmarried partners; what is meant by "a sensible approach" and who will be the judge of it; and how this aim is to be enforced.

Lord Lucas: The Government believe that married couples who have a clear view of their responsibilities are in the best position to create a stable home environment in which to bring up children, and we wish to encourage this. There are no plans to penalise individuals who by choice or necessity follow other lifestyles. Local authorities will be responsible for administering housing allocation schemes, in the light of any guidance which may be issued by the Secretary of State.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can achieve their stated aim, namely to "ensure that there is no necessity for people to sleep rough" (Our Future Homes, Cm 2901, page 38) while they continue to follow a policy in which some people may have no entitlement to means-tested benefits.

Lord Lucas: The noble Earl's question may arise out of concern for unemployed 16 and 17 year-olds who have no general entitlement to Income Support. The minority of such individuals who have to live independently for good reason and who are at risk of severe hardship receive income support and, where appropriate, housing benefit. There should be no necessity for such young people to sleep rough.

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Wembley Stadium: Noise

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is answerable for nuisance to neighbouring residents at pop concerts in Wembley Stadium, and whether under civil or criminal sanction; and

    Whether any public authority is responsible for recording noise levels in Wembley Stadium during pop concerts, and if so what noise levels were recorded on the evenings of 15th and 16th July.

Lord Lucas: Wembley Stadium Limited have been granted an occasional entertainments licence to hold concerts at Wembley by the London Borough of Brent under Section 52 and Schedule 12 of the London Government Act 1963. The licence includes conditions limiting noise levels. The choice of appropriate noise limits for this type of event is a matter for the local authority. Contravention of these conditions by the licensee would be a criminal offence punishable by a fine not exceeding £5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both.

I understand that the London Borough of Brent monitored the noise levels at the concerts on the evenings of 15th and 16th July. Within the stadium, these levels ranged from 95–100 decibels. Further work is under way to ascertain whether levels measured outside the stadium complied with the limits set.

Where the local authority is satisfied that a noise constitutes a statutory nuisance, or such a nuisance is likely to occur or recur, it can serve an abatement notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Contravention of an abatement notice for industrial trade or business premises is punishable by a fine not exceeding twenty thousand pounds.

An individual can also lay a complaint direct to a magistrates' court under Section 82 of the same Act.

Planning Conditions: Enforcement

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will state the Government's policy on enforcing planning conditions which have been imposed on a grant of planning permission to ensure that commercial or residential development is carried out strictly in accordance with the plans approved by the local planning authority.

Lord Lucas: Planning Policy Guidance Note 18 (PPG18), entitled Enforcing Planning Group, explains how local planning authorities should assess whether it is expedient, in certain areas, to take formal enforcement action to remedy an alleged breach of planning control. Paragraph 5 of PPG18 states that nothing in the guidance should be taken as condoning a wilful breach of planning law.

When a planning authority have specifically imposed conditions on a grant of planning permission requiring the development to be carried out strictly in accordance with the submitted plans and elevational drawings of the proposed structures (including details of any

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landscaping or materials), we would expect the developer to comply fully with all the relevant conditions. There is a statutory right of appeal against any planning condition with which an applicant is aggrieved.

If a developer deliberately fails to comply with such conditions without seeking to appeal against them, because he considers that an alternative approach or design is equally acceptable to what has been approved, and is warned by the planning authority that he must comply, we would normally expect the planning authority to take formal enforcement action.

Where appropriate, planning conditions can now be enforced by serving a breach of condition notice, by virtue of section 187A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. There is no appeal to the Secretary of State against this type of notice. A failure to comply with it can be enforced summarily in the magistrates' court.

In deciding enforcement appeals involving an alleged breach of an essential planning condition, planning inspectors will have regard to this policy statement.

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