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Subsidence

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what policies her Department has in place with regard to local authorities dealing with widespread and severe subsidence in public areas; and if she will make a statement; (141999)

(2) whether her Department provides a contingency fund which local authorities can access to deal with severe and widespread subsidence in public areas caused by abandoned mineworkings.

[holding answers 11 June 2007]: The Department has in place the Land Stabilisation Programme as a source of contingency funding, which provides local authorities with financial assistance with meeting a proportion of the costs for dealing with unforeseen land instability problems caused by abandoned non-coal mines, where the project costs are judged to be eligible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what guidance her Department has made available to local authorities affected by widespread and severe subsidence in public areas caused by abandoned mineworkings operated by companies no longer in existence on how to determine where the financial liabilities lie for restoring affected public areas, public buildings and private properties; (142000)

(2) what (a) financial assistance, (b) additional powers or responsibilities and (c) legal and technical assistance her Department makes available to local authorities dealing with severe subsidence in public areas;

(3) what courses of action are available to local authorities to provide remedies to (a) schools, (b) housing estates and (c) other public spaces affected by severe subsidence caused by derelict mineworkings; and if she will make a statement.

[holding answers 11 June 2007]: Statutory responsibility in ensuring public safety from threats stemming from land instability lies with local authorities. Local authorities in England are eligible to apply to the Land Stabilisation Programme via English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, for assistance with funding for land stabilisation problems arising from abandoned non-coal mines. English Partnerships manages the Land Stabilisation Programme on behalf of the Department. The focus of funding through the Land Stabilisation Programme is principally on removal of blight or enabling investment to regenerate areas where abandoned underground non-coal mine workings are present and where there is a threat to life and/or property. Extensive guidance on the assistance available and how to apply for assistance with funding can be found on the English Partnerships website at:

www.englishpartnerships.co.uk.

Responsibility for dealing with stabilisation works and for complying with any regulations or legislation governing public health and safety lies at all times with local authorities. This includes compliance with planning requirements environmental protection and management of consultants/contractors. English Partnerships’ expertise in best value and best practice is available to all project partners and covers a wide range of subjects such as construction methods and standards, management techniques, sustainable remediation and regeneration of blighted land. Where project costs are not eligible for assistance from EP via the Land Stabilisation Programme, EP will nevertheless assist with advice.

Funding assistance for local authorities provided through the non-coalmining Land Stabilisation Programme can help to safeguard or remediate housing, commercial and other properties and public areas, including schools, above the mines.