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The Earl of Onslow: It is interesting that national parks are in areas which nobody previously wanted to develop. They have not been ruined like Surrey, Middlesex or Liverpool. National parks are basically wild places. They are wild because there has been no great possibility of enormous economic development in them.
People say rightly that national parks are special. They can be kept viable only by a combination of grants, subsidies and so on. There are hill grants for farmers and grants for rebuilding the walls on the Crimea Pass. That is quite right. Therefore, we are looking at the need to preserve a great wild garden in England for the benefit of everybody. It seems important that, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, they should not be preserved as museums. We must try to encourage rural craftsstonemasons and so onand small businesses in which perhaps only one or two jobs are created. That will cause more traffic problems but surely we want more than mere museums supported by grants from the agricultural community. We must do something. How it is to be done I do not know. I believe that the word "foster" goes some way towards achieving what is needed.
Baroness Nicol: I do not dissent from anything said about the need to keep healthy communities in national parks. I am sure that my noble friends who support some of the amendments share that view. Where I disagree with the amendments is in relation to the attempt to make them part of the purposes of national parks. National parks were designated because of their natural beauty and their potential for outdoor recreation. But the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, suggests that the promotion of social and economic well-being was part of the reason for selecting the areas in the first place. That is not the case.
The purposes are different from the role of the national parks authorities; we shall deal with that in our discussions on Clause 59. All those Members of the Committee who say that they wish to see the development of the economic strength of communities will find an opportunity to achieve that in Clause 59. I feel the same about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. To try to include sustainable development in the purposes of the national parks will blur the issue and will make their task more difficult.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that changing the words "socio-economic duty" to "foster" is not acceptable. I consider that the Government have got it right on this occasion. It is not the role of national park authorities to double up on the work carried out by other agencies. It would cause resentment and confusion if they tried to do so.
The word "foster" puts the park authorities in the role of lead agencies. That is not their duty. The words "have regard to" reflect accurately the intention that they should work in partnership with others. I strongly support the view of the noble Earl that partnership is an
Lord Stanley of Alderley: I support the amendment. If the social well-being of the local community is not a major plank in the clause, in the end there will be no national parks. I do not agree with the noble Baroness. There will then be no purpose for them at all. I am afraid that we are not getting on very well in relation to this Bill. I hope that my noble friend, even if he does not accept the detail of the amendment, will accept the principle and the importance of the local community.
Baroness Hamwee: I support the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. I am troubled not by the sentiments underlying the amendments, with which I agree wholeheartedly, regarding the need to look to matters of sustainable development and the need to look to economic and social matters. I am concerned about the blurring of responsibility which may occur for the best of reasons. As the noble Baroness said, there are other agencies, which include local authorities. I fear that it would make the carrying out of the duties of other agencies more difficult if those authorities were to take over some of their powers.
Lord Norrie: I have a problem as regards accepting Amendments Nos. 254, 260 and 254ZA. Giving the national parks a third purpose was a question which the National Parks Review Panel looked at in detail. It did not gain the panel's support. While recognising,
Conservation and the promotion of quiet enjoyment are the purposes of designation and I mean by that the reasons why the national parks were set up in the first place. The socio-economic duty is part of the role of national parks authorities. The Bill clearly defines a distinction between the national parks' purposes and the socio-economic duty. I believe that Amendment No. 255A clarifies the fact that that duty should be carried out in ways which are compatible with or further those purposes. I believe the Bill has got it absolutely right. If national parks were designated with a socio-economic purpose, they would no longer be unique and the national parks authorities would be doubling up, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said, on the work done by bodies like the Rural Development Commission, the Welsh Development Agency and local authorities. Therefore, the Bill strikes the right relationship between national park purposes and the socio-economic duty.
Lord Renton: My noble friend Lord Norrie knows that I share his enthusiasm for national parks. However, I ask him and other noble Lords to bear in mind that if we wish national parks to be well preserved that will need the co-operation of the people who live in them
Fisheries require industrial and ancillary development sometimes but not on a large scale. I would be very much opposed to cement factories or power stations other than hydro-electric power stations coming into national parks. As hydro-electricity develops, and I hope it may develop further, national parks are a natural place for such power stations which are not intrusive. Having said that, I am totally against the use of the words "sustainable development". It is much too wide an expression. I agree with those noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Norrie, who are worried lest sustainable development becomes an excuse for changing our national parks adversely.
I owe an apology to my noble friend Lord Peel. I said that I wanted to support his amendment; in principle, I do. I gather that it is really a probing amendment. The difficulty I have is that it seems to overlap with the terms of new Section 11A which it is proposed to add to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The main aims are set out in that section. In those circumstances, I am not sure that we also need to have them stated earlier in the Bill in the way suggested by my noble friend. However, as I am referring to the re-enacting with the amendment to Section 11 of the 1949 Act, I should say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Derwent in that I believe that his word "foster" would be appropriate.
However, we must be careful with such matters. We do not wish national parks either to lose their character through overdevelopment, whether it is housing, factories or whatever, or to fail in their purpose by depriving local people of the opportunity of living a normal life.
The Earl of Lytton: I should like to express my support for Amendment No. 254 moved by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. I supported the noble Earl previously when we dealt with the matter in the context of the National Parks Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. I feel no less strongly about it now. As has been mentioned, if economic purposes are not relevant to the conduct of national park infrastructure in terms of its socio-economics, it is very unlikely that the necessary new investment will be made or properly channelled.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to the lack of resources available to national parks to take on a further function of the nature proposed. My experience is that there is very little in the way of resources even for things like access provision or the management of areas designated by national park authorities under Section 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985, both of which affect me as a farmer on Exmoor. We need to reach a point where we have an integrated
Under the Bill's proposals, national park authorities will have extensive new powers. It is possible that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, overlooked the economic importance of the use of planning powers. I see that she is shaking her head, so obviously she has considered the point. However, if one authority has planning powers but it is for another authority that does not have those powers to promote the social and economic well-being, there is a discontinuity between the two functions. My concern is that that does not lead us to an integrated approach.
During the proceedings on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, with which we dealt last year in this Chamber, I was particularly heartenedas I am sure was the noble Earl, Lord Peelby the Minister's response. He used words along the lines that, of course, national parks would have to have regard to social and economic well-being. It seems to me that we have before us the opportunity to put such a provision in the Bill. If we are talking about all-purpose national park authorities but one of the essential bits is missing, it seems to me that we shall not achieve what is needed by way of the Bill.
I believe that Section 37 of the Countryside Act 1968I am speaking from memoryrefers to the social and economic well-being of rural areas. I am especially concerned that we get back to that concept of areas. I hesitate to speculate, but if we attach too much importance to communities, it may well be in the Exmoor context that the community of Dulverton or Exford is more important than that of Brendon simply because of the number of houses. What about the community of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, at Lillycombe Farm where his agricultural operation is carried out? It employs a number of people, both directly and indirectly.
Finally, I have noted in the past that my own national park authority at Exmoor has stated on the face of its consultation draft local plan that economic progress, economic development and economic responsibilities are not part of its purpose. It then goes on deal with a whole raft of considerations which make it clear that it feels that it is no part of that planning process. I am very worried about that. If the Minister does not accept the amendment moved by the noble Earl, I should like some reassurance from him that such important matters will be taken into account. In the meantime, as I said, I warmly support the amendment.
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