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Viscount Ullswater: I think perhaps the best thing I can do to answer my noble friend is to quote from the draft guidance which has been issued, which states, as regards the national parks:

These will be instructions to the national park authorities. I believe that that encapsulates what we mean by the promotion of the social and economic well-being of the local communities.

Lord Vinson: I am sorry to press this point, but is a local farmer a community? It could be easily argued that he is not and that a community is a local village or a greater habitation. Therefore the park authorities could ignore the very proper and often perfectly correct application that he might make because they say they have a wider remit only to look at communities in the generality and not as regards individuals when it is a matter of farming families.

Viscount Ullswater: I am not sure that I should prolong this conversation with my noble friend but I believe that the farmer that he mentions has just as much of a role to play as regards the quality of the landscape in a national park. It would be important that the national park authorities should understand that.

Earl Peel: I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the discussions on this amendment. My noble friend Lord Onslow described how the parks were formed and said they were designated because they were wild places unlike, he said, Liverpool. He has obviously never been to the Kop on a Saturday night when Manchester United are playing.

My noble friend Lord Derwent, when speaking to his amendment, was mildly critical of my amendment. He said that his national park officer had said to him that the national parks were concerned about my amendment because they did not have the staff and resources to deal with the socio-economic duties which the amendment would place on them. As I said earlier, it is fair to say that they have not achieved a great deal with the money available to them in relation to conservation. In fact, habitat loss inside the parks has been as great as it has outside the parks. Therefore, I do not accept that particular argument.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, made an interesting and serious point. She said that social well-being was not the reason for the original designation of the parks. The parks were designated principally because of what they are. Who created them? It is the people living and working in the parks, not the national park authorities. That is why I feel so strongly that the people living and working in the parks should be treated on equal terms with visitors. That is fundamental.

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My noble friend Lord Norrie said that if socio-economic duties were placed on the parks they would not be unique. I believe that I am right in saying that other authorities do not have a duty to promote conservation and public enjoyment. That illustrates that the national parks are unique because specific duties are placed on national park authorities. I see no reason why placing such an additional duty on them would undermine the principal purposes behind the designation of national parks.

I do not wish to prolong the debate. I believe that there has been sufficient support for the amendment for us to consider the matter again at a later stage, whether that is in the form of an amendment as strong as mine or in the form suggested by my noble friend Lord Derwent. It is for us to get together. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will consider our approach very seriously in view of the undoubted support we have enjoyed from all sides of the Chamber. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 254ZA not moved.]

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 254A:

Page 64, line 37, after ("6(3)") insert ("and (4) (g)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 255 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 255ZA:

After Clause 58, insert the following new clause:

("Major Development Test

.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, major developments shall not be permitted within the National Parks.
(2) Proposals for major developments in National Parks shall be permitted only if, following rigorous public examination, it is demonstrated that they satisfy the following conditions—
(i) that the proposal is absolutely necessary in the national interest, which includes the furtherance of National Park purposes; and
(ii) that the proposal cannot practically be accommodated in an alternative location outside the National Parks.
(3) In determining whether a proposal is absolutely necessary in the national interest full regard shall be had to—
(i) the prospects of meeting the demand which gives rise to the need for the proposal by means other than the proposal; and
(ii) the prospects and means of reducing the demand which gives rise to the need for the proposal.
(4) Any proposal satisfying the conditions set out in subsection (2) above shall only be permitted subject to conditions which mitigate so far as is practicable any adverse environmental effects including a requirement to restore satisfactorily the site, in accordance with a scheme that shall form part of the proposal, when the need for the development ceases.
(5) For the purposes of this section "major development" shall include all development deemed to have potentially significant environmental effects, including such development controlled by the Planning, Highways, Electricity, Land Drainage and Water Acts.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 255ZA seeks to fulfil one of the main recommendations of the National Parks Review Panel by introducing a test for major development proposals in national parks into

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legislation. It also seeks to implement through legislation the Government's promise that national park designation confers,

    "the highest status of protection as far as landscape and scenic beauty are concerned".

I have already mentioned that national parks include some of our most beautiful landscapes and are immensely popular. The importance of national parks is recognised across all the political parties. They are part of our national heritage and therefore worthy of enduring protection. Development in them must therefore be such that those natural assets can be passed on to future generations without the natural beauty of the landscapes being eroded.

At present the national park clauses in the Bill are concerned with improving the operations and administration of the parks from the inside; but those clauses lack any measures which would protect the parks from the outside.

What is at stake in promoting Amendment No. 255ZA is the protection of our finest countryside from major development pressures. The amendment has the support of all the voluntary sector environmental and amenity organisations with an interest in national parks. It has the support of my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who is chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England. The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales also support the inclusion of a test as crucial to this legislation.

In its 1992 policy on national parks the Government said that,

    "there is no need to wait for further legislation to enhance the planning protection to be afforded to National Parks".

At the time that included a test for major development proposals in national parks in planning policy guidance note 7, which makes it clear that major development shall not take place in the parks "save in exceptional circumstances".

Now that an opportunity has arisen, that test must be included in the legislation, because planning policy guidance does not cover all forms of development, including energy and roads; nor does it provide an adequate procedural framework for protecting the parks. The courts have found that planning policy guidance notes have a limited legal effect. There is, therefore, a marked distinction to be drawn between the status of government policies as contained in planning policy guidance notes and the status of law as contained in statute. Experience has shown that planning policy guidance does not deliver the level of protection recommended by the National Parks Review Panel and promised by the Government.

The test set out in Amendment No. 255ZA seeks to implement key principles identified by the National Parks Review Panel. The panel said the test should ensure that,

    "before any major development is accepted in a National Park, every avenue for meeting the need outside the Park has been thoroughly explored—or that the need is met in other ways, for example through conservation in the case of water and energy. Proven national need, and lack of alternative sites, must mean just that".

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The amendment seeks to measure the national interest in the need for a major development against the national interest in national parks. It seeks to establish whether the development can be located outside the national parks. It also seeks to establish whether the development is absolutely necessary. It asks whether the need can be met in another way: is there scope for the demand for the product or service to be reduced? Once all other criteria are met it sets a high standard for any development that passes the test.

I see the test set out in the amendment as a much clearer guide to developers, planning authorities and the Secretary of State. It would enable developers to make early strategic decisions about options, thus saving them time and effort. Planning authorities and inspectors would have much clearer criteria by which to judge applications.

The legislation must set out an enduring framework for major development procedure relating to national parks. Sustainable development is a long-term set of objectives, and national park protection must also be taken into consideration in the long term. Legislation is the right place for the test. I believe that the amendment constitutes the right test. I beg to move.

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