HC Deb 06 February 1992 vol 203 cc233-5W
Mr. Carttiss

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what resources are being made available under the derelict land grant programme in 1992–93; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young

The resources available in 1992–93 for derelict land reclamation under the derelict land grant programme will be £106 million. This represents an increase of 21 per cent. on this year's provision. £9 million of this total has been earmarked for reclamation schemes carried out by private sector companies and voluntary organisations such as groundwork trusts. The remainder has been allocated for reclamation schemes operated by local authorities.

The reclamation of derelict and often seriously contaminated land plays a vital role in recycling previously developed land and returning it to beneficial use. This helps to improve the environment and ensure that the use of greenfield sites for development is kept to a minimum. Since 1979 DLG has funded the reclamation of 15,500 hectares and I expect a further 1,500 hectares to be reclaimed next year.

New priorities and guidelines for DLG were announced in May 1991 introducing greater flexibility in the type of reclamation schemes which can be supported by DLG throughout England. Local authorities applying for DLG are being encouraged to prepare reclamation strategies which are expected to show an increased emphasis on reclamation for environmental and amenity improvement.

In urban and inner city areas we will continue to give priority to reclaiming sites for use by industry and commerce, and for housing provision; providing a demand for these sites has been clearly demonstrated. But environmental improvement can also make an important contribution to urban regeneration and a large number of DLG reclamation schemes designed to provide a new amenity and recreational provision in urban areas is planned to start in 1992–93.

On the urban fringe and in rural areas, DLG will also be widely used for environmental improvement. A range of such schemes is planned for next year which will include the use of derelict land for community forests, the reclamation of derelict canals for amenity use and the conversion of derelict railways into long distance footpaths and cycleways.

I have also decided how the total resources available for DLG should be divided between regions and this distribution is given in the table. Most DLG will go to the northern and midland regions where the concentration of dereliction is greatest. The north-west region and Yorkshire and Humberside will receive £21 million each, (representing increases of 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. respectively compared with last year's allocations). The west midlands wil also receive £20.5 million (14 per cent. up on last year), including £9.21 million for investigative and infilling work in connection with the disused limestone mines in that region.

Table 1 Derelict Land Grant Programme:
Distribution of resources by region for 1992–93
Region Allocation for 1992–93 (£ million) Percentage increase on this year's allocation
Northern 12.4 14
North West 21.0 15
Merseyside 8.6 13
Yorkshire and Humberside 21.0 25
West Midlands 20.5 14
East Midlands 13.0 21
London 2.0 43
South West 4.5 72
South East 1.2 77
Eastern 1.0 19
Unallocated 0.8
Total 106.0 21

The number of rolling programmes of reclamation has also been substantially increased for 1992–93. In total there will be 26 in operation accounting for £50.5 million of DLG expenditure, with five new programmes starting in Northumberland, Sunderland, Durham, the Croal/Irwell valley and St Helens. Also project Furness will be extended to the whole of the local authority area. Rolling programmes are subject to a review after three years of operation and, following such reviews this year, the Leeds/Liverpool canal corridor programme will be extended to include Rossendale and the major programme at Salford quays will be extended for another three years to complete reclamation there.

Reclamation in areas subject to colliery closures has been an important priority for DLG and will continue to be so in 1992–93. £21 million of DLG resources are planned to be spent in coalfield areas. DLG is now being used in these areas to concentrate on collieries closed before March 1990. British Coal has agreed to take financial responsibility for the reclamation of collieries closing since then and the combined effect of these twin programmes will add increased momentum to the pace of reclamation and regeneration in the coalfields.

Priority is also being given under the DLG programme to dealing with derelict sites which are also badly contaminated. The reclamation costs for such sites are often much higher than average, but need to be dealt with urgently for reasons of public health and safety. In total it is likely that about £25 million of DLG will be committed towards such major schemes, involving seriously contaminated sites, on which work is likely to start next year.