HC Deb 13 March 1997 vol 292 cc287-8W
Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish the report of the interdepartmental working group on blight. [20607]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

The interdepartmental working group on blight was established to review the scope, cause and effects of blight arising during the various stages of major infrastructure projects and to consider whether any practical changes could be made to existing arrangements for property purchase and compensation. The group published a discussion paper last June and a progress report, which set out the various proposals that had been put to group, was published last November. Since then the group has been evaluating these ideas and assessing the costs and benefits of various options. That work has yet to be completed. I anticipate that the group will now complete its work in about the middle of this year.

In addition to a consideration of possible changes to the purchase and compensation arrangements, the group is looking at steps that might be taken to reduce the blighting effects of projects by, for example, speeding up decision processes and reducing uncertainty. On 14 January I announced consultations on proposals to speed up both the development plans and planning appeals processes, all of which has the potential to reduce blight. However, the group has drawn attention to two ideas which might be pursued ahead of its final report. I therefore propose to begin consultation on ways of reducing the blighting effects of infrastructure projects which are shown on statutory development plans, but which have subsequently been abandoned, and on developing a code of good practice on the timely dissemination of information about projects by major infrastructure developers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is considering similar proposals.