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Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 11, leave out ("maintaining") and insert ("sustaining")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. To some Members of the Committee, this amendment may be seen simply as a matter of linguistic pedantry. However, if this Bill is to become law, it must be absolutely clear not only what it intends to achieve but also what is to be enforced in order to protect and enhance our areas of outstanding natural beauty. The key word is "enhance". We must not simply maintain an area of outstanding natural beauty as though it were something preserved in aspic at a random moment in time, but we must sustain areas of outstanding natural beauty.

In "sustaining" as opposed to "maintaining", we are allowing for areas of outstanding natural beauty to continue to be dynamic--a living part of the rural environment. Ideally, they should be managed in such a way as to be sustainable areas. Where possible, they should contribute to the overall well-being of the local area in economic as well as recreational terms.

We must avoid the creation of a series of dead, museum-like areas in the middle of a living countryside. That would be harmful to the countryside as a whole, to rural communities as well as to areas of outstanding

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natural beauty themselves. There are virtually no areas in England that can truly be considered to be natural. Our countryside has been moulded by the presence of man. That includes those areas of outstanding natural beauty. When we talk of any part or aspect of the countryside, we must remember that we are not talking simply of the flora, fauna and wildlife, but also of the people who own, live and work on the land. Thus, the use of the word "sustaining" as opposed to "maintaining" is not mere pedantry but a crucial difference that takes account of the needs of AONBs and the countryside in its full meaning.

On Amendment No. 2, I would say that in wishing to alter the word "maintaining" to "sustaining", we are attempting to harmonise the preceding subsection with this current one. Not only do the addition of the words "livelihood" and "communities" help to make this clause of the Bill clearer, more harmonious and consistent with what has gone on before, but it also gives due recognition to the fact that the countryside must be seen primarily as its people.

As it stands, this clause fails to see AONBs as part of the wider countryside. AONBs are not all isolated wildernesses that can be preserved as if man were nothing but a dispassionate observer and preserver. In fact, most of them form part of a living and working countryside. Our landscape is a managed environment and it has been moulded and shaped over the centuries by the people who live and work on that land. For example, the magnificence of our heather moorland still exists thanks to man's custodial care, yet it is economically viable because of game conservancy and shooting.

It is precisely because of man's role--an active role--in the natural order of things that this balance is maintained and the countryside can be enjoyed by the nation as a whole. This amendment recognises rural people and ensures that in the designation of AONBs and the subsequent activity of sustaining them, the needs and roles of rural people are properly integrated into that strategy. AONBs must not become a burden on rural communities but a much treasured, loved and viable rural asset for the present and future generations. Without this amendment, the Bill falls short of adequately recognising this intrinsic relationship between the land and the people.

Amendment No. 3 seeks to substitute "incongruous and insensitive" for "intrusive". It is quite clear what is meant by "intrusive". At least, I know how I would interpret it. However, it is a word open to abuse by those who would oppose any future change and development in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Any development or alteration is, by the very nature, an intrusion: it alters and therefore intrudes upon the status quo. Similarly, by intruding it has an effect. That may sound to some Members of the Committee as though it is nothing more than a lawyer's argument. We are, however, only too well aware of how badly-worded legislation can be used by those misguided persons--for example, of the eco-warrior type--who would like to see the British countryside perhaps frozen, like some preserved relic at some undefined point in time.

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While such people and other campaigners, wrong as their methods so often are, draw our attention to the threat proposed to our countryside in our time, it is important that the countryside is allowed to live. It must not become a decaying museum but must continually develop and thus be stimulating in its freshness. As any biologist will tell, one of the characteristics of something living is growth or change. Healthy living things and environments are also, generally speaking, self-sustainable. Therefore, AONBs must not become little enclaves of an imaginist rural ideal. Rather, they should continue to grow and develop as an integral part of the rural landscape, including rural communities and livelihoods.

As everywhere, a balance must be struck between preservation, progress and the need for people. This amendment would ensure that continued progress and development in areas of great beauty was possible where such changes were genuinely needed for the future of a community and/or an AONB. Any activities or developments would be judged for their sustainability on their individual merits and according to the two eminently sensible criteria contained in this amendment of congruity and sensitivity. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I rise to support my noble friend on the first of the three amendments, particularly with reference to "sustaining". "Maintaining" has very specific implications and those of us who work and live in the countryside would very much support "sustaining".

I take this opportunity to thank all Members of the Committee for the kind messages I received and give my apologies for not being at Second Reading, in particular to my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry. My brother unfortunately died the previous night and I had to go home. I am very grateful for the messages of support and sympathy that I have received.

I am anxious to try to respond to the sensible suggestions that have come forward from my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry with the amendments he put forward. I hope that, in this instance, he will be able to accept "sustaining" as it is a very good word which expresses exactly what we need. The countryside must be a living and working environment.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I thank all noble Lords who are attending this afternoon for the attention that they are giving to the AONB Bill. I believe that this is a rather unique occasion. I do not know that a Private Member's Bill has ever moved into Grand Committee before; and it is the subject of some interest that we are causing a little piece of history.

More important, of course, is what we shall do to areas of outstanding natural beauty. In his more general remarks, my noble friend Lord Rotherwick spoke about areas of outstanding natural beauty and the need for them not to become, in his words, "little enclaves". I should like to touch upon that briefly on the Question that Clause 1 stand part of the debate. That might give

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everyone an opportunity to express some more general thoughts about the purposes and designations of areas of outstanding natural beauty.

I have listened to what has been said about Amendment No. 1 which inserts "maintaining" rather than "sustaining". If that is the general wish of the Committee, I should certainly not wish to block it. It is arguable that "sustaining" implies putting your hand underneath and holding up, whereas "maintaining" means more regularly pushing forward. I do not believe that "sustaining" is a better word. However, it is not a matter of huge importance and if, as my noble friend has just said, she and others feel that it would be a better word as regards our common interest in the improvement of AONBs, I have no problem in accepting it.

I should have difficulty in accepting Amendment No. 2, because the idea of sustaining livelihoods and communities has too much an impression of sustaining the past rather than moving forward. All of us will say, I am sure, in a debate on the Question that Clause 1 shall stand part that we want to see the AONBs as living active communities. However, inevitably people change jobs. They change the work they do; they change their livelihoods. I do not believe therefore that "livelihoods" and "communities" are the right words to insert. It gives an impression of looking backwards rather than forwards to how there should be active communities in the AONBs in the future.

On Amendment No. 3, I should prefer the word "intrusive" to "incongruous and insensitive". I am sure that noble Lords do not wish to spend time arguing about differences of definition, but to me "intrusive" is a rather stronger word and something we wish to avoid in,

    "safeguarding such areas from intrusive development and its effects." "Incongruous and insensitive" in my book would be open to more subjective interpretation than the word "intrusive". For that reason, therefore, I prefer not to see Amendments Nos. 2 or 3 go forward. However, if it is the wish of the Committee I for one would gladly go along with Amendment No. 1.

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