HC Deb 19 January 1988 vol 125 cc598-600W
Mr. Heddle

To ask the Prime Minister if she will publish in theOfficial Report details of measures which the Government have introduced since May 1979 to deal with urban dereliction and inner city decay; and what further measures the Government propose to introduce to improve the quality of the environment, the opportunity for employment and the encouragement of the private sector to invest in inner urban areas.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I have been asked to reply because of my responsibility, under the Prime Minister, for the coordination of Government action on inner cities and for its presentation.

Since 1979 the Government have developed a range of policies and initiatives to deal with urban dereliction and inner city decay through encouraging development and raising business confidence. The following measures cover initiatives in England; my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales have also developed a range of programmes and initiatives to encourage urban regeneration.

Urban Development Corporations Urban development corporations have been set up with powers to acquire, reclaim and service land, bring land and buildings into effective use, promote new development and housing and support community facilities. The London Docklands and Merseyside development corporations have been in operation since 1981. Four more were set up in 1987: Trafford Park, Teesside, Tyne and Wear and the Black Country. The London and Merseyside corporations have helped to create or retain nearly 14,000 jobs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced on 7 December 1987 three new urban development corporations — in Bristol, Leeds and Central Manchester, and the extension of the Black Country development corporation to Wolverhampton;

Derelict Land Grant Derelict land grant encourages the reuse of land which has been so damaged by former industrial or other development that it cannot be used without treatment. In assisted areas and derelict land clearance areas grants for reclamation are paid at 100 per cent to local authorities and at 80 per cent. to private sector owners. Elsewhere the rate is 50 per cent. for all applicants. Priority is given to schemes which will provide land for housing, industry and commerce. Through derelict land grant over 1,000 hectares are reclaimed every year;

Land Registers Land registers of unused and underused land owned by public authorities are held by the Department of the Environment to help prospective developers to obtain the release of particular sites. The Department has powers to direct public owners to sell land which is registered on the open market. The land registers currently contain some 40,000 hectares; over 20,000 hectares have been removed from the registers since they were introduced in 1981;

Urban Development Grant The Government introduced urban development grants in late 1982 to encourage the economic and physical regeneration of inner urban areas by attracting private sector investment in projects which would not otherwise take place in these areas. Nearly £130 million in urban development grants have been approved which will lever at least £526 million of private investment;

Urban Regeneration Grant Urban regeneration grant, introduced under the Housing and Planning Act 1986, promotes the economic and physical regeneration of older urban areas affected by urban change, by enabling the private sector to redevelop large sites and refurbish large groups of buildings. Grant is paid direct to private sector owners and developers;

Estate Action Estate Action was launched in June 1985 to work with local authorities to develop innovatory solutions to problems arising on their rundown housing estates. They included new ways of running estates such as tenant management cooperatives or trusts, measures to diversify tenure, involving private sector finance and estate-based management initiatives to give tenants greater involvement and control. Over 100 new schemes were launched in 1987/88;

Task Forces In 1986 the Government launched inner city task forces in inner city areas to encourage local enterprise and initiatives and motivate communities. Sixteen task forces, which are currently the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry, are now operating. More than 200 companies are already working with the task forces whose business development funds, aimed at new and small businesses, have so far assisted over 160 businesses;

Enterprise Zones As an experiment to encourage development by deregulation, 17 enterprise zones have been set up in England since 1981. These help to unlock land for industry and commerce by removing tax burdens and relaxing administrative and planning controls. The zones have led to the development of 700 hectares of land. A total of £90 million has been spent to improve their infrastructure and release their potential;

Local Enterprise Agencies In co-operation with Business in the Community, the Government support a network of local enterprise agencies, with special emphasis on developing those inner city areas. Since 1979 the Government have recast the interdepartmental urban programme, which supports some 12,000 inner city projects annually, to give priority to area-based regeneration involving the private sector. They have also strengthened the Government's contribution to local regeneration by the formation, in 1985, of city action teams to bring together the relevant programmes of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Employment and Manpower Services Commission and the Department of the Environment. Other Departments' programmes, for example, Home Office crime prevention and ethnic community initiatives and inner city school-employer and adult training initiatives supported by the Department of Education and Science, have contributed significantly to inner city regeneration. The Government intend to build on these substantial achievements by taking further steps to involve the private sector in inner city regeneration and widen the choice and opportunities open to inner city residents. The measures proposed in the White Paper "DTI—the department for Enterprise" (Cmnd. 278), laid before the House on 12 January, include significant proposals to encourage enterprise and industry in inner city areas. For example, the new consultancy initiatives will offer higher levels of grant in urban areas to encourage the growth and development of small firms.

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