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Thames Gateway

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made towards meeting job creation targets in the Thames Gateway area; and if she will make a statement. (75820)

Later this year, the Department will publish a Strategic Framework for the Thames Gateway. It will have at its core an economic rationale for the Gateway, developed in partnership with the three Thames Gateway regional development agencies and the Thames Gateway sub-regional partnerships. The Department plans to publish a baseline report alongside the framework, which will describe the position at the start of the programme in 2003. We intend to use this to produce progress updates at appropriate intervals thereafter.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps are being taken to ensure that the views of local people within the Thames Gateway redevelopment area are taken into account with regard to infrastructure and planning. (79285)

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires local planning authorities, including those in the Thames Gateway, to prepare a statement of community involvement for their area. The statement of community involvement sets out how the local planning authority will engage with the local community and stakeholders in the preparation of local development documents and on consultations for planning applications. Where local authorities have not adopted a statement of community involvement, they are required to comply with the minimum requirements set out in the Town and Country Planning (Local Development)(England) Regulations 2004 in terms of engaging the local community and stakeholders in the preparation of local development documents.

At the regional level, regional planning bodies are responsible for preparing draft Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and are required to prepare a statement of community involvement on how they intend to engage the public and on how the public were involved in the preparation of the draft RSS. The adequacy of community involvement and how the views of the community have been taken on board is one of the tests of soundness which is considered at the public examination of the draft RSS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what environmental initiatives are being planned as part of the redevelopment of the Thames Gateway. (79286)

The Government believe that communities are more successful and enjoy a better and healthier quality of life if they have easy access to an attractive well designed and managed green environment which is rich in biodiversity.

In 2004 the Government published “Greening the Gateway”, a strategy for Thames Gateway which established the principle that new and existing residential and commercial areas should be set in a network of varied and well-managed green space, known as green grids. Green grids create green pathways and wildlife corridors through commercial and residential areas to link rural and green spaces together, making them more welcoming and accessible.

To date, £26 million has been allocated to green space projects from the Thames Gateway programme fund including:

Marshes Plan Implementation

£1 million to enable Groundwork to develop and deliver a Marshes Plan for Dartford, Crayford and Erith, including a strategic cycle route, heritage trail and other access improvements, habitat creation and education areas.

Flood Storage along River Cray

£500,000 as part of a plan to improve access down to and along the River Cray. Funding for works to improve habitat creation and optimise flood storage capacity

Lower Roding Valley

£1 million for Lower River Roding valley environmental, flood alleviation and path works.

Rainham Marshes

£5.25 million for this green grid flagship project, involving the construction of a continuous 3.65 km long, 3 m wide footpath and cycleway across the Rainham, Wennington and Aveley Marshes (the 640 hectares of which is known as the London Riverside Conservation Park).

Ranscombe Farm Country Park:

£665,000 towards the £l,348,000 project to create flagship country park and nature reserve, within the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty and within reach of urban developments in Medway and Kent Thameside. Ranscombe Farm is one of the richest botanical sites in the British Isles and home to the single most important arable flower field in the UK. The 600 acre site also includes ancient woodland and relict fragments of chalk grassland.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what regulations are in place in relation to the building of new housing in the Thames Gateway to reduce (a) carbon levels, (b) waste production, (c) electricity use and (d) overall environmental impact; and how the regulations will be enforced. (79287)

Part L of the Building Regulations covers conservation of fuel and power as it relates to a building. Building Regulation standards for new housing in England and Wales have been improved by 40 per cent. since early 2002. It covers all energy used for space heating and hot water.

Part H of the Building Regulations covers drainage and waste disposal. It states that adequate provision shall be made for storage of solid waste. It does not cover reduction of waste.

The Building Regulations do not cover carbon levels or general environmental impact.

The Government are also introducing a new code for sustainable homes to go further than building regulations.

The Government have announced a feasibility study into the extent to which we can facilitate the Thames Gateway becoming a low carbon development area within the next decade, with the ultimate goal of achieving zero carbon development area status. We envisage that the results of this work will inform future decisions about the Government’s wider approach to environmental standards within the Thames Gateway.