Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Rotherwick: I thank the Minister for what she had to say. I suppose it was a little too much to hope that I could table such a strong amendment and obtain her agreement. I agree with her that it is a little strong, and we would probably seek to come back at a later date with something less strong. We are all after the same thing and are just trying to find how best to describe it.

At the same time, I failed to speak properly to Amendment No. 10. Again, we come back to the same argument; that is, we are anxious that the conservation boards do not just talk among themselves and with official bodies. We are anxious that they make the workings of these bodies open to groups of concerned citizens and that those concerned citizens have a chance of making their feelings known.

Since I do not have the agreement of the whole Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Chorley moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert--
("(1A) Subject to subsection (2) and in pursuance of its duty under subsection (1), every local planning authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or part of an area of outstanding natural beauty shall also seek to foster the economic and social well-being of communities within the area of outstanding natural beauty.")

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH16

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 6, I shall speak also to consequential Amendments Nos. 7 and 9. During the Second Reading debate, and again today, reference was made by a number of speakers to socio-economic considerations. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, readily agreed in that debate that they needed to be taken on board. Indeed, the drafting of the amendment is his rather than mine. I am delighted also that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, added their names in support. I hope that this is one of the least controversial amendments.

All our AONB landscapes depend in large measure on the hand of man; on farmers cultivating over many centuries. However, these landscapes do not depend solely on farmers. As farming in many AONBs becomes less economic and is likely to continue to become less economic, it is important that alternative activities are furthered. Sensitively handled this need not be to the detriment of those landscapes. I can think, for example, of a number of National Trust projects which have facilitated alternative activities, in particular in finding new uses for redundant farm buildings such as barns. A great deal can be done. These AONB landscapes depend on the people and the communities who live and work in them. If we want to protect those landscapes we cannot ignore those people. They are the stewards. This is the view of the National Trust. In response to the Government's invitation to consult on the forthcoming rural White Paper, the CLA said much the same. There is common ground between us. I beg to move.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I support the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. The purpose of these amendments is to place a duty on both local planning authorities and conservation boards to foster the economic and social well-being of the communities within areas of outstanding natural beauty. Concern about this was expressed by several noble Lords in the Second Reading debate. I understand that the amendment has the support of the Country Landowners' Association. I very much hope that the Committee will accept it.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I am glad that the amendment has been moved, and wish that the Government would place a duty on all local authorities to pursue the economic, social and environmental well-being of their communities. I look forward to their bringing in a Bill to do so.

We have not tabled amendments on this Bill, mainly because much in the Bill needs to be encompassed in a wider countryside Bill. We have heard comments from noble Lords about those people who should be heard and those who do not deserve to be heard because they may have retired to such areas. Such comments miss the point that it is a community. Social and economic well-being must involve the entire community. Those who retire and leave the towns are often the people who volunteer to build stiles and clear footpaths because they have the time to do so.

The amendment encompasses the belief that it should be an inclusive process. For that reason I welcome the amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: This is one of the occasions when I am in agreement with my noble friend

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH17

Lord Stanley of Alderley. I support the amendment to which I have put my name. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for moving them and for the support that my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry has indicated. The amendment meets the objection which I raised at Second Reading, when I spoke on tourism. I voiced my concern about the position of those who live and work in the areas of outstanding natural beauty, and whose livelihoods might be jeopardised by the Bill in its current form.

Comments have been made in Committee that the Bill does not face any realistic chance of getting on to the statute book. Those outwith this Chamber may wonder why so many of us in this quite well-attended room take such a deep interest in the issue; and why a shadow spokesman on tourism might be so interested. I say to such people, as my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, that there is a deep significance in this Bill. The noble Lord seeks to provide a template which might be adopted later. At this stage we should take the opportunity to probe the intentions behind this Bill. We are aware that some aspects of this Bill may subsequently become part of the government draft Bill. This is something one has to bear in mind. Therefore it is proper to take a fairly detailed view of the issue at this stage--and perhaps even at Report stage as my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley commented.

Also one must have regard to all those who have done so much work in preparing the briefings for this Bill, and those whose views they represent outwith this Chamber. I have received more briefings on this from interested bodies than on many a government Bill.

Reference has already been made by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley to the fact that farmers are now facing their worst crisis in 60 years. When I was the opposition spokesman in this place for agriculture last year I was very much aware that farm tourism might at one time have been a way of bringing pin money into the family income system. However, it is now taking a much greater part in the importance of their economy. It is a vital source for other people carrying on other businesses within AONBs.

It is important, therefore, that farmers should be able to diversify into farm tourism. It is something which will grow over the coming years and not diminish and it is vital that the Bill does nothing to hinder that ability to diversify.

Consumers have already shown that they want farmers to diversify into tourism, including in areas of outstanding natural beauty. That is proved by the fact that farm visits is the area of tourism that has boomed over the past few years. The Deloitte & Touche Visitor Attraction Survey of 1996-1997 revealed that the biggest percentage growth in any tourist activity in that period was for farm visits. So tourism of this kind is not only beneficial to the farm owners and managers who are setting up businesses, but it also brings an income stream into other businesses within the area.

I was pleased to see the launch of the English Tourist Board's listing of top farm attractions last year. It illustrates a new professionalism in the way farmers

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH18

approach the business of catering for tourists and it points to the enormous potential that exists for well-run farm attractions to thrive.

If I may be forgiven for directing a comment at the Government--though I appreciate that it is not the duty of the Minister to answer questions today from Members of the Committee--I have a concern with the re-launch of the English Tourist Board into the English Tourism Council; its metamorphosis is on 19th July. The change in its powers may mean that we will lose this excellent new publication for farmers because the English Tourism Council has been stripped of the English Tourist Board's remit for marketing and for promotion nationally. I am, therefore, concerned whether the national listing of farm attractions will be one of the casualties of this change into the English Tourism Council. This is something I shall take up with the Minister and her colleagues in DCMS as I hope this is a publication that can be assisted to survive.

I am delighted that the amendment has the support of several Members of the Committee and I hope it will receive the Government's support as well.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I shall try not to be the black sheep with my noble friend Lord Renton or my noble friend Lady Anelay, particularly as one cannot even get rid of black sheep's wool at the moment--we have to burn it to the detriment of the environment.

I am delighted to put my name to this amendment. It raises the point that I referred to on the first amendment. I do not believe we shall agree entirely on how far we should go down the road of commercialism in relation to farming. I shall perhaps not be able to get my point over as to how serious it is and how much we do not want to be hindered. Some of these bodies hinder us in the way in which my noble friend Lord Jopling pointed out so ably earlier on.

I put my name to this amendment because earlier on my noble friend Lady Anelay tabled a similar amendment in which she suggested that it should not cost any money. I feel strongly about this and was going to amend her amendment, which no doubt would have caused some wrath. If there is one thing that has cost me more money in my life even than getting married and having children, it is conservation. It is the most expensive form of amusement that anybody can take part in and it always costs money. Let us not bluff our minds that it is not. That is why, to confess, I like making money on the farm because I have reached the stage where I like to improve it.

It is vital for the Committee to realise that, if any conservation body is going to work, it will need money and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is looking at me and smiling because he knows from the National Trust that it eats money. That is one of the reasons that I put my name to this amendment; that is, in order to--I do not want to use the word--"spite" my noble friend Lady Anelay. She did, however, bring home to me that we may be going down the wrong path and I hope that the Committee does not do so.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page