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Rented Housing

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the total number of houses in the rented sector in Scotland; and what was the figure in 1979. [21117]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: The estimated number of rented houses in Scotland was, at December 1979, 1,283,000; and, at December 1994, 948,000. These figures cover both private and public sectors, and include housing associations.

Urban Environment

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is Scottish Natural Heritage's policy on the urban environment; and if he will make a statement. [21095]

Mr. Kynoch: On 30 November 1995, Scottish Natural Heritage published "Natural Heritage In and Around Settlements: A Framework for Action", which sets out the principles that guide SNH's activities throughout urban areas and other settlements in Scotland. I have asked for a copy to be placed in the House of Commons Library.

SNH supports many projects and initiatives in urban areas, including some £1.5 million per annum for projects in the countryside in and around towns programme.

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Permitted Development Orders

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what measures he proposes to ensure the accountability of planning decisions taken within the areas covered by the permitted development orders. [21041]

Mr. Kynoch: No such measures are necessary. There is only one permitted development order, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992, which covers the whole of Scotland. It grants a form of general planning permission, known as permitted development, for certain types of non-controversial development which would otherwise invariably be granted planning permission. These permitted development rights are subject to various limitations and conditions to protect amenity and the environment. Some classes of permitted development, that is for agricultural and forestry buildings, are subject to a prior approval procedure which gives planning authorities the opportunity to influence matters such as siting, design and external appearance.

Provided a person is satisfied that a proposed development is permitted development there is no need to apply to the planning authority for consent and no basis for addressing the accountability of decisions not before the authority.

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many approaches his Department has had during the last five calendar years from local authorities seeking to amend the terms of permitted development orders; and on how many occasions his Department has responded positively to these requests. [21044]

Mr. Kynoch: The Department receives numerous approaches from local authorities, and others, suggesting changes to the permitted development order and other pieces of planning legislation. Like all planning legislation, the permitted development order is kept under regular review and any suggestions for amendment are taken into account. The Department responds to all such approaches explaining what action, if any is to be taken. No record is kept of the number of these approaches.

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what procedures are used by his Department in considering whether to renew the terms of a permitted development order. [21043]

Mr. Kynoch: The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 is a statutory instrument and so remains in force until it is amended or revoked by a subsequent statutory instrument. Thus, while there is no requirement to renew the order, it is kept under review and from time to time it is subject to amendment. Suggestions for change can arise from research, a policy change or ideas submitted by interested parties.

Any proposals to amend the order are normally subject to public consultation with planning authorities and a wide range of individuals and organisations representing developer, business, environmental and community interests before being implemented.

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement listing the permitted

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development orders currently in force, the facilities these orders relate to, when they were initially enacted and when they were last reviewed by his Department. [21045]

Mr. Kynoch: There is only one order, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992. It presently covers 71 different classes of development, which would require too much space to list here. However, a copy of the order is available in the Library. The current order came into force on 13 March 1992 and, like all planning legislation, is subject to regular review. It has been amended on several occasions since then, most recently in February 1995.

Disabled Students

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland which authority will be responsible from 1 April for paying the travel costs of college students who have disabilities; and if he will make a statement. [21099]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: Travel costs for college students with disabilities are paid through bursaries or the students awards scheme for those studying on higher education level courses.

From 1 April 1996, responsibility for bursaries will transfer from local authorities to the 43 incorporated further education colleges. Bursaries for further education students studying outwith the incorporated colleges will remain the responsibility of local authorities. The student awards agency for Scotland will continue to administer the student awards scheme.

Prisoners (Self-harm)

Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) how many self-inflicted deaths have occurred in Scottish prisons in 1996 at the latest date for which figures are available by (a) age, (b) sex and (c) prison establishment; [21015]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The subject of the questions relates to matters undertaken by the Scottish Prison Service. I have asked its chief executive, Mr. E. W. Frizzell to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from E. W. Frizzell to Mr. Michael Connarty, dated 19 March 1996:

    When you raised with me last year the question of maintaining statistics on incidents of self harm, I indicated that I would need to be sure it was a practical and useful proposition and that I would

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    give it further thought. The Scottish Prison Service has commissioned Dr. Kevin Power and Dr. Joseph McElroy of the Department of Psychology at the University of Stirling to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of our Suicide Prevention Strategy. In addition, Professor Gunn of the Institute of Psychiatry has been commissioned to consider the appropriateness of the strategy against developments in the care of "at risk" people in other jurisdictions. Both these reports are expected in the near future and I shall consider your suggestion again in the light of these reports.

Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson Bypass

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the current progress on the Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson bypass. [21046]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The position has not changed significantly since my answer to the hon. Member on 24 November 1995, Official Report, column 321. The revised design work is still on-going, and will be completed soon, allowing consideration to be given to publication of new draft standing orders this summer.

Special Needs Housing

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what plans he has to increase the number of special needs houses in Scotland; and if he will make a statement; [21121]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: Community care is one of four national priorities for local housing authorities. It is also a priority for Scottish Homes.

Between 1979 and 1995, the stock of sheltered dwellings provided by public authorities and housing associations increased by more than fourfold to around 34,000. In 1995, these bodies also provided just over 7,900 dwellings for disabled people; just over 24,000 specially adapted houses; over 17,400 amenity houses; and over 23,000 dwellings with alarms. In addition, many community care users live in mainstream housing with suitable support services and a number are in private provision.

A breakdown of the total numbers of such dwellings by parliamentary constituency is not available.

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