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The Earl of Onslow: It seems odd. We have just spoken at considerable length and with much feeling about this. The Government do not like the idea of fostering small and reasonable economic development in the national parks, the small businesses in ones and twos. They are not prepared
Viscount Ullswater: If I gave that impression, it was the wrong impression. What I said was that there was a difference between the role of the National Parks Authority to promote and other agencies which are tasked to promote such developments.
The Earl of Onslow: I am sorry if I received the wrong impression, and of course I accept what my noble friend says. But that does not detract from my second point. Large-scale development in national parks should practically at all costs be resisted.
I accept that there are occasionsI quote the Okehampton bypass as onewhere there is a major difficulty. The Committee may remember that the Okehampton bypass went through the top end of the Dartmoor National Park. It raised hackles considerably in your Lordships' House. The argument was that for it to pass through the part of the national park planned would do less environmental harm than if it went through the rather nice piece of countryside on the other side which was extremely beautiful. There was a terrible dilemma basically between three pieces of environmental damage: first, going through a national park, secondly, ruining the countryside and, thirdly, doing nothing and ruining Okehampton. It was a terrible
It seems to me that unless there are careful rules, we should not have any major development in the national parks. I was reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that if one looks across the Roman Road to Aber, there is a terrible and ghastly line of pylons on the wonderful skyline below Cader Idris and Carnedd Llewelyn. They should never have been put there and somehow that kind of thing must be avoided.
Lord Elton: I had not intended to intervene, but I was the Minister who wound up the debate on whether the Okehampton bypass should go through the national park. All kinds of recollections have been stirred by my noble friend. The first is that the road was invisible from almost the whole of the national park. As he rightly said, it would have been widely visible on the other side of Okehampton.
However, here we have a case where, as my noble friend said, Parliament kept a close eye on development under provisions which are already on the statute book. It came to what I believe we are agreed was the right conclusion.
The proposal here is that the provisions should be changed. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said and his list of decisions which had not been called in. I shall read that with interest tomorrow in Hansard. As I recall the provisions on the statute book, with a national park it is already necessary to consider the national interest and whether it can be accommodated outside the national park. There is already a requirement to consider future demand and whether it can be met by other means. I do not recall there being a requirement for a search for a means of reducing the demand. That is new. There is a requirement, where there is a temporary activity, for consideration of restoration in the application.
I regard subsection (5) as the most delphic and interesting. It concerns the interaction between what is proposed in this provision and what exists in other legislation such as the planning, highways, electricity, land drainage and water Acts. There we would need detailed guidance as to the extent to which this provision would take precedence over those provisions.
I share all the anxieties of everyone who has spoken about major developments in the national parks. I am anxious to know whether this change in the legislation is necessary or right to achieve what Members of the Committee want.
Lord Moran: I strongly support those Members of the Committee who spoke in favour of the amendment, which is of crucial importance. In essence, major developments in national parks should not only be looked at very carefully indeed but allowed only in exceptional circumstances where there is a national need and no alternative.
That is absolutely right and it seems to be in accordance with the whole drift of the amendment. The Edwards Panel also identified the areas that were of concern, such as mining and quarrying, trunk roads (which have been mentioned) nuclear generation, pumped storage schemes, transmission lines, hydro-electric projects, wind farms, reservoirs and the leisure developments such as holiday villages, marinas and conference centres which it considered were inappropriate in national parks. This is a very important amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it.
As I read that, it could apply to absolutely anything. An extension on a house could have significant environmental effects, as well as power stations, wind farms and other building works. So it is not just a question of defining what the term "all development" is, when all speakers have mentioned not "all development" but certain specific types of development.
Secondly, we need to address the matter of what is or is not significant in any given instance. That has already been alluded to. In our previous day's discussion in Committee I mentioned on an earlier amendment the matter of reciprocity. When national parks were designated for the undoubted value of the landscape and for nature conservation purposes, they were designated by putting a red line on the plan which included a job lot of all kinds of things that were satisfactory, as well as, I dare say, quite a few that were unsatisfactory. The unsatisfactory ones may nevertheless have been legitimate businesses of long standing which were entitled to the anticipation of organic growth over time, as with other activities. I cannot accept that if planning has to take into account what is newfor instance a fresh proposal on a greenfield sitethen, by the same token, it must also take into account what is there already, what is pre-existing, what is a legitimate use. That follows on from the amendment moved earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. There must be reciprocity of consideration on both sides of the equation.
I draw the attention of the Committee to another factor; namely, that development in town and country planning terms includes not only construction and engineering works but also material changes of use. So when Members of the Committee refer to conference centres, I wonder whether they are including changes of use within the curtilage of existing buildings or whether they are talking about new construction on greenfield sites. There is a fundamental difference between the two. As someone who has close links with a national park, I thoroughly endorse the concept of protecting the area from intrusive developments, but I fear that the amendment goes much too far. It goes well beyond the
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I wonder if my noble friend can make absolutely clear in his reply the extent to which the amendment would produce a substantial change to the law as it stands. I wish also to put a question to my noble friend Lord Norrie who moved the amendment. It may be a rather nitpicking point, but I wonder what exactly is meant by,
Would it be different if it were put the other way roundnamely, "the need which gives rise to the demand"or, better still, would it not be better to leave out either "need" or "demand" and just include one of them? It seems to me that it would mean the same.
Baroness Lockwood: I support the amendment. In doing so, it is important to point out that we need to take a long-term view about the pressures from major developments in the national parks. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, gave several references to issues that have arisen where the policy of the national parks has not been completely upheld in the past. From my own experience I can certainly underline what the noble Lord said in respect of the Swinden quarry in the Yorkshire Dales, which is not only an eyesore now but, if considerably extended, will be an even greater eyesore and nuisance to the local community in the futurenot only to the community in the immediate vicinity but to the community in the park where the lorries transporting the extracts go by at regular intervals.
The same could be said about another development which took place recently in the Yorkshire Dales where permission was given to open up a new quarry not subjected to the kind of test outlined in the amendment. So there is continual development within the national parks. It is important that we take the long-term view.
The National Parks Review Panel stated that it is likely that pressures for major development will continue and may intensify. I believe that too. Therefore we need the rigour included in the proposed test to prevent such an intensification. The test sets out clearly what issues will prevent or permit continued development in the national parks.
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