House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Countryside And Rights Of Way Bill - continued          House of Commons

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FINANCIAL AND MANPOWER EFFECTS OF THE BILL

Part I - Access to the Countryside

179. Following the outcome of the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review, £2 million has been provided to the Countryside Agency for additional expenditure on access in England for 1999-2000. The Regulatory Impact Assessment suggests total annual costs of £2.7 million, with £7.6 million one-off costs. Costs to the public sector (central and local government and statutory agencies) are estimated at around £2.2 million annually with one-off costs of about £6.4 million: these cover costs of mapping access land; providing wardens, stiles, and information to help manage access; producing codes of practice and other guidance; and establishing local access forums. Public sector manpower effects are expected to be limited: local authorities will, where necessary, employ additional wardens and be responsible for enforcing means of access; the statutory countryside and conservation bodies will require some extra staff to deal with mapping, and closure arrangements; and additional resources will be needed by Central Government to handle appeals on maps

Part II — Public Rights of Way and Road Traffic

180. Implementation of the provisions in Part II of the Bill is expected to cost local authorities between £12 and £19 million per annum arising principally from the new landowners' and occupiers' right of application and appeal for public path orders, a public right to serve notices on local highway authorities for the removal of certain obstructions, the reclassification of RUPPs as a "Restricted Byway" and closures or diversions of rights of way for crime prevention in certain urban areas and schools.

181. The costs to central government are estimated at up to £7 million annually. These will arise principally from the court costs associated with the new public right to serve notices on local highway authorities for the removal of obstructions, from appeals in relation to the right to apply for certain orders, and from the increased claims resulting from the proposals to cap the recording of rights of way.

182. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will cover the central government costs in England and local authority costs in England and Wales. The costs to central government in Wales will be met by the National Assembly for Wales.

183. Public sector manpower effects will be limited to some minor adjustments to staffing levels and duties in local authorities, the Planning Inspectorate, which deals with opposed rights of way orders and Government Offices for the Regions, which handle appeals to the Secretary of State.

Part III — Nature Conservation and Wildlife Protection

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

184. Increases in grant-in-aid for English Nature of £6m in 1999-00 and a further £5m in 2000-01 already enable progress to be made with regard to improvements in the condition of SSSIs, in advance of legislation. In order to exercise the increased powers and new provisions in the Bill, English Nature is recruiting approximately 25 extra staff, and is likely to make additional bids for resources in future years. The speed with which further improvements can be delivered will be related to the resources made available.

185. Public bodies are already subject to existing provisions in s11 Countryside Act 1968. The new legislative provisions will focus this more clearly, in the context of protecting and managing SSSIs and may require minor adjustments to resources.

186. There will be very minor additional costs to the Planning Inspectorate for providing Inspectors for the appeals process and minor additional staffing costs for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

187. About 5 extra permanent staff and between 10-15 short term project staff are estimated as required for the Countryside Council for Wales to deal with the review of existing consents, work notices, prosecutions, appeals and transitional arrangements The Countryside Council for Wales has received a £200k increase in funds for 2000-01 for the implementation of measures within the Bill and the implementation of the EC habitat and Birds Directive.

Wildlife Enforcement

188. The wildlife enforcement provisions are unlikely to have significant financial or manpower implications, since their main thrust is providing stronger powers for the police. The introduction of custodial sentences will have a minimal financial effect and are likely to be used in very limited circumstances, for example in cases of significant financial gain, or for persistent offenders.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY APPRAISAL

Part I — Access to the Countryside

189. The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) indicates that the quantified benefits of a new statutory right of access outweigh the costs by a significant margin. Such costs and benefits have been considered along with unquantified costs and benefits. The RIA suggests there may be some costs for certain landowners or managers, but the Bill's provisions for closing land or otherwise restricting access are expected to mitigate or eliminate altogether any adverse effects.

190. Benefits to business would include increased tourism and greater opportunities for farms to diversify. For public sector bodies anticipated benefits include a degree of simplification of access management and savings in costs of payments on existing access agreement when they lapse. For users, principally walkers, there would be benefits in terms of more and better quality of access, including greater permanency of access.

191. A copy of the regulatory impact assessment may be obtained from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU

Part II - Public Rights of way and road traffic

192. The Regulatory Impact Assessment shows that the financial costs arising from the Rights of Way and Road Traffic proposals will be borne predominately by local and central government. These will be balanced by benefits from the improvement and modernisation of rights of way networks, easier access, increased accountability and democracy, clear strategies with better monitoring and evaluation, more information and enhanced decision-making on rights of way.

193. The assessment found that several proposals — the right of application for certain orders, nature conservation measures, control of off-road vehicles, enhanced local authority order-making powers and reclassification of RUPPs - could affect the availability of some routes to certain users of rights of way. Significant overall benefits to users would come from measures to ensure swifter clearing of obstructions, general improvements to the rights of way network, easier and earlier access to some routes, and greater certainty and clarity of the ways available.

194. For land managers, the assessment identified the costs of removing obstructions sooner rather than later. The clauses relating to nature conservation and access for less mobile people would, although comparatively rarely, constrain some land management options. Conversely, the right to apply for diversions and closures, the Roads Used as Public Paths reclassification provisions, the powers for highway authorities to divert byways, the ban on off-road vehicles and the reform of order procedures will bring benefits for land managers in the form of greater clarity and certainty, fewer restrictions on management, reduced conflict and better enforcement.

195. In the longer term, users and land managers alike could expect to benefit from the existence of a more modern rights of way network and from increased responsiveness to changes in the needs of users and to alterations in land use requirements.

196. The regulatory impact assessment demonstrates that there will be no significant costs to business arising from the proposals in this part of the Bill.

197. The package of rights of way measures amends the legal framework so as to assist those responsible to improve the execution of their rights of way duties, in particular by widening the order making powers and making available procedures for the better management of legal records of public rights of way. Local authorities are expected to meet the standards associated with the "Best Value" initiative, which requires them continuously to improve the performance of all their duties, including their rights of way functions.

198. A copy of the regulatory impact assessment may be obtained from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Part III — Nature Conservation and Wildlife Protection

Sites of Special Scientific interest

199. The Regulatory Impact Assessment for SSSIs suggest that the measures will deliver a major environmental benefit through improvements to the protection and positive management of SSSIs, which are nationally important sites for natural and earth heritage. There will be an increased regulatory burden on those land managers whose activities may be damaging to the special features in an SSSI (although there will be rights of appeal where activities are curtailed). There will be some increase in costs to the public purse, through the additional regulation, but monies will in future be better directed towards the positive management of SSSIs, rather than compensation for profits foregone.

200. A copy of the regulatory impact assessment may be obtained from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU.

Wildlife enforcement

201. A regulatory impact assessment was not necessary for the wildlife enforcement provisions as they do not impose any new regulatory burdens or new costs on business.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

202. Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement, before Second Reading, about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has made the following statement:

In my view the provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.

COMMENCEMENT

203. Certain provisions of Part I, including the provisions about mapping, are to come into force 2 months after Royal Assent. The new statutory right of access is to come into force on a date or dates appointed by the Minister, or in Wales the National Assembly for Wales, by order.

204. The Rights of Way and SSSI provisions will be brought into force by commencement order.

205. The wildlife provisions will come into force two months after Royal Assent with the exception of clause 67(2) and (3) (which allows regulations implementing certain EU legislation to impose custodial sentences of up to 6 months) which will come into force on Royal Assent.

 
 
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Prepared: 3 March 2000