HC Deb 20 July 1987 vol 120 cc98-100W
Mr. David Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the achievements of his Department in helping small businesses over the last three years; and if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring.

Mr. Trippier

The Department has introduced a number of measures, many of which are part of the deregulation initiative described in Cmnds. 9571, 9794 and "Encouraging Enterprise". In particular we have:

allowed for the introduction of simplified planning zones in the Housing and Planning Act 1986;

modernised the use classes order to allow a wider range of changes of use of buildings to take placde without planning permission;

enabled time limits to be set for planning appeals determined by the written representations procedure and to disregard representations made after a date specified for each appeal and published details of steps to be taken to speed up planning appeals involving inquiries;

brought back into use or disposed of unused public land on the land registers—the amount has increased from 6,700 acres in 1984 and 10,700 acres in 1985 to 12,000 acres in 1986.

set up and funded two pilot "one stop shops" in partnership with Nottingham city and Blackburn district councils, providing a single advice point within each local authority, to help small firm inquiries;

provided that specific planning permission is no longer needed for certain extensions to industrial and warehouse buildings except in environmentally sensitive areas;

published "A Step by Step Guide to Planning Permission for Small Businesses";

published circular 2/86 "Development by Small Businesses" urging local planning authorities to be helpful in dealing with small firms' planning applications and adopt a common-sense approach to enforcement;

introduced simpler and more flexible building regulations covering England and Wales including inner London.

the Development Commission spending increased from £22.1 million in 1984–85 to £27.5 million in 1986–87. Over the last three years the commission has provided 1,176,668 sq ft of advance factory space, over 1.000 redundant building grants and 160 factories in partnership with local authorities. COSIRA has advised 27,413 separate rural firms and arranged through the private sector and its own funds nearly £38 million worth of loans;

provided £35.4 million over the last three years through the urban programme (UP) for starter, enterprise or other small units;

this expenditure led to the creation of about 10,300 jobs over the last two years. In addition to this, direct grants and loans to firms by local authorities receive support under the UP: in 1986–87 £9.8 million was provided.

provided various forms of indirect support for firms through the UP:

highway access works to assist development: £6.2 million in 1986–87;

site preparation works to assist development: £6.6 million in 1986–87;

general environmental works to assist development: £14.4 million in 1986–87;

support for general advisory services, for example, local enterprise agencies, business advice centres: £5.1 million in 1986–87; and business promotion, for example, trade fairs, tourism: £5 million in 1986–87.

The effect of these measures and programmes on small firms cannot always be separately identified. However, a study in June 1985 into the economic component of the UP found that the great majority of the firms affected by and benefiting from UP supported projects are small manufacturing firms either indigenous to the inner city area or starter firms. Ninety two per cent. of those firms occupying UP funded units employ fewer than 10 people as do 64 per cent. of those using advisory services and 66 per cent. of those firms receiving direct support.