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Lord Marlesford: National parks have been with us for just under half a century and much has changed in that time. The Edwards Committee identified some of the changes and some of the problems that flowed from them. One of the problems that it identified was the increasing noise. It was to deal with that problem that it made its recommendation which the Government accepted and used in their 1992 response when they undertook to introduce legislation to refer expressly to "quiet enjoyment and understanding".
Of course I accept from the noble and learned Lord and others that the wording of the amendment is inappropriate. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said, those of us who support the intention behind the amendment are in no sense wedded to the wording. But we must have something in the new statute which deals with this new and increasing problem. It is a major problem which, if left unchecked and undealt with, could greatly damage that which the national parks have contributed and should increasingly contribute to the welfare of the people of this country and indeed of visitors from overseas who use the national parks.
All I ask my noble friend the Minister is to say that the Government are sympathetic to the intention; that they will introduce some wording on Report which will be more appropriate to fulfil that intention. It would only
Lord Greenway: We have been up in the skyif one can call low-flying aircraft "up in the sky". We have been above the clouds in my noble and learned friend's discourse on the word "quiet". But perhaps I may bring the Committee back down to sea level. In view of my interest in the Bill to date, it would be strange if I did not say something on behalf of the boating interests, because certain forms of noisy boating have been referred tothough in a lifetime's experience of boating I have yet to come across a "towed inflated crocodile". Perhaps that is a pleasure which awaits me in later life.
It goes without saying that the boating interestsI include all of them, not just the powerboatersare extremely worried by the amendment. The concept of promoting "quiet enjoyment" appears at first to be uncontroversial. But if it is included in the legislation, there is a fear that it may be interpreted in a way that goes far beyond what was intended. Perhaps I might give the Committee one or two examples.
At the recent Windermere public inquiry, which has already been mentioned, the promoters of the 10 miles an hour speed limit, which was intended to ban water-skiing, powerboat racing and powerboat record attempts, canvassed in the greatest detail and at great length the concept of "quiet enjoyment" as a reason for prohibiting those activities. In fact in the end it was all that was left of their case once they had failed to justify their allegations of wash, noise and conflict due to powerboats. To pick up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, those activities, by and large, take place in a fairly small area and in the case of Windermere, the national park there is extremely large.
My second example relates to certain bodies that are campaigning to urge the Government that in the context of "quiet enjoyment" all motorised water-based recreational activities are inappropriate in national parks and new activities of that kind should not be allowed; by inference, and as demonstrated at Windermere, existing use should also be terminated. That would effectively remove powered craft from all national parks. There is little doubt that the CNP would then seek to achieve the same clearances from other areas such as the Norfolk Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty and the heritage coastal areas. Arising out of that, if the activities were to be banned, would be a backlash in relation to jobs. For example, if powerboating was banned in the Windermere area, certain interests estimate that up to 400 local jobs may be lost; and even the national parks council thought that 160 jobs would be lost.
Finally, the term "quiet enjoyment" is capable of redefinition to cover activities and levels of noise that no reasonable person could consider noisy. A recent discussion document by the Countryside Council for Wales states,
If an apparently responsible body such as the CCW is led to characterise dinghy racing as a noisy watersport, virtually every active form of recreation could be similarly described. Those things sound terrific alarm bells among the boating fraternity, and the Government should be extremely cautious when dealing with the amendment. I am firmly opposed to it and I hope that the Government will look at it most carefully.
Viscount Ullswater: I am in the hands of the Committee, as always. It may be proper that I should say a few words at this time. It would not prevent other Members of the Committee from joining in the debate after I sit down.
I can assure my noble friend Lord Norrie and the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Chorley, who spoke to the amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, who asked me whether the Government had carefully looked at the words in the Edwards Report, that we looked very carefully at the proposed wording for the second purpose and the arguments put forward in support of it before arriving at the form of words which appears in Clause 58(1) of the Bill.
We indicated in the summary of action proposed in our 1992 policy statement on the future of the national parks that the second national park purpose should refer to "quiet enjoyment". However, the statement also recognised that the parks should provide a wide range of experiences for the visitor and that there are activities which are in conflict with the concept of quiet enjoyment. It also made clear that co-operation is the best means of encouraging sensitive uses of the parks while recognising that those experiences which are unique to themand which are largely related to the quiet enjoyment of these areasshould be protected and fostered. So, while our policy statement reflected the importance of the term "quiet enjoyment", it also recognised that the issue was not as clear-cut as might at first glance be supposed. Since then, we have also found that there are difficulties in using that specific term, which a number of noble Lords acknowledged when we debated the issue at Second Reading and have identified this afternoon.
I sympathise with those noble Lords who fear that the enjoyment of the parks' special qualities by the many may be put at risk by the recreational pursuits of the few. The Government are also as opposed as any here to intrusions into the parks which may result from the insensitive and inappropriate use of the countryside. However, I am uneasy as to the possible consequences of this amendment. Do those who desire the addition of this adjective do so according to its common English usage? I am far from clear that they do. If they see only a narrow application, how is it to be so limited?
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, identified some of the problems of using the word "quiet" without some form of qualification. The riding of motorbikes or driving of vehicles over open country or on footpaths is already illegal. So perhaps the noble Lords desire to ban the riding of motorbikes anywhere in the parks,
My noble friend Lord Elton shares my concern about the alternative view that the effect of the amendment would be to leave the park authorities free to choose to promote "quiet" activities but to do so without detriment to other, by implication "noisy", activities. I am not convinced that that interpretation of the amendment will be shared by all or will be practically useful to the national park authorities.
Nevertheless, I fully understand the wishI would agree with the intention of my noble friend Lord Norriefor the second national park purpose to reflect the value of the parks as providing places where we can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester that we need spaces in our lives to get away from such hustle and bustle. The Government entirely share that expectation. Our draft circular, which I have placed in the Library of the House and which is available in the Printed Paper Office, emphasises that the special qualities of the parks are to be determined within the context of their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on opportunities for savouring the wide open spaces and the wilderness and the tranquillity which are to be found in the parks, particularly in the more remote or less heavily visited areas.
However, we do not, as a matter of principle, accept that particular recreational activities should be automatically excluded from every part of every park. Many of the people who visit the parks reasonably expect to use the opportunities they offer to undertake a wide range of recreational pursuits. Bowness and Castleton are as much a part of the parks as the wild and remote places that we cherish. In formulating policies, the national park authorities must work towards striking a balance between the legitimate demand to use all the opportunities the parks afford for open-air recreation and those who wish to enjoy only their beauty and tranquillity.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, tried to say that this is a matter of principle. I do not necessarily agree with him that it is a matter of principle. In most instances, it should be possible, by encouraging co-operation and through careful planning and positive management, to accommodate both those who wish to enjoy and appreciate the parks as quiet places and those who wish to use the opportunities they afford for more active pursuits. Nevertheless, we accept that some recreational activities for which a place will be sought in the parks could cause unacceptable damage or disturbance to their natural beauty, wildlife or cultural heritage, which in turn may also affect other people's understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. For that reason, while we believe that every effort should be made to find a solution through negotiation and mediationand
I believe that this approach will prove far more effective than any blanket ban, which will be difficult to enforce and impossible to define. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Norrie: I am very conscious that we have been debating the amendment for more than an hour and I am grateful to the Committee for listening for such a long period of time. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Williams, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Chorley, for their assistance and support. What we are all concerned with is the kind of recreational opportunities which the national parks are there to promote. I stress that the clause and amendment are concerned with recreation and not other activities such as forestry and military training. We put it to the Committee that it would be inviting disaster in days of increasing technological forms of enjoyment to leave open the definition of "enjoyment". The problem exists now and the pressures can only increase. Therefore, it is essential to put "quiet enjoyment" on the face of the Bill and we look to the guidance to expand its implementation.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Ullswater for the opportunities which he has given me to discuss this issue with him and for his reply today, but I am not persuaded that the expression "special qualities" indicates sufficiently clearly what type of recreations national parks should have the purpose of promoting. The guidance only aggravates matters by suggesting that any type of recreation should be promoted in popular parts of the parks. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, made clear, it is the principle of quiet enjoyment that we wish to establish with this amendment. I agree wholeheartedly with him. We wish to provide a talisman to guide those involved in promoting enjoyment of the parks.
It is my firm belief, based on sound advice, that "quiet enjoyment" acquires a legal meaning in the context of national parks and the countryside. In the light of support from all sides of the Committee for the amendment
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