HL Deb 28 November 1996 vol 576 cc24-5WA
Lord Brabazon of Tara

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the consultation exercise on proposed rural exemptions from the purchase grant scheme for housing association tenants.

Earl Ferrers

In last year's rural White Paper we announced plans to exclude small rural villages from the new purchase grant scheme for housing association tenants, using a population guideline of 3,000 people. This intention was confirmed in the debates on the Housing Bill. Some 20,000 settlements meeting this criterion were identified, and since June we have been consulting local authorities, housing associations, rural groups and others on detailed proposed designations for every county and area of England. We indicated that we would also be prepared to consider special cases for the exclusion of other settlements above the guideline population.

We have had over 350 replies raising over 800 queries about the detail of the designations. Each query has been carefully considered. As a result over 270 settlements with a population of under 3,000 have been added to the proposed exclusions, and my department has replied to each such query individually.

In addition, around 200 of the queries concerned settlements where the population exceeded 3,000 but where a special case was made about the settlement concerned. We have accepted the cases made for Benson in Oxfordshire, and Bassingbourne cum Kneesworth and Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire where the villages are adjacent to military bases, and their combined population figures are misleading. Each special case was considered carefully, and my department also gave a group of settlements with populations close to the 3,000 guideline a further opportunity to make a fuller case for exemption. Of these we have accepted that Porthleven in Cornwall and Bromyard in Hereford and Worcester should be exempted because they have identified that there would be particular difficulty in providing replacement properties in these settlements.

We hope to be able to lay the orders making rural designations before both Houses in the new year.

My honourable friend the Minister for Housing for Wales has also consulted on a different approach to be used in Wales, and announced the outcome on 24th July 1996.