Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Chorley moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 3, line 6, at end insert ("so as to reflect both national and local community interests")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 15:

Page 3, line 7, at end insert--
("( ) In making his appointments to a conservation board, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the need to include persons who derive their livelihoods from the occupation and management of land within the area of outstanding natural beauty.")

The noble Lord said: I should like to make a few remarks, bearing in mind what the noble Baroness has just said. I think I am right in saying that the noble Baroness cannot agree to this amendment in its present form but also that she agreed with the principle of the matter. This will make it essential for me to return to the matter on Report to try to clarify it, because although I would not for a moment wish to be described as a working Peer--as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Renton--both he and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, agreed that I had raised a valid point. Somehow we must try to get this issue included to the satisfaction of the noble Baroness.

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) The decisions of the conservation board shall be subject to appeal by affected landowners to the local authority and representative bodies.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 16. It is quite simple. Surely it is only right that those affected by this clause should have the right of

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH27

appeal. To allow such powers to a conservation body without the right of appeal would be contrary to natural justice. I beg to move.

Lord Chorley: I am terribly ignorant about planning law and procedure. However, I should have thought that there is always right of appeal in these circumstances anyway. In other words, it is not necessary.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It may help if I make the Government's position clear on this. The Government cannot accept this amendment. It would be unworkable. There would need to be clarification as to how this proposal could possibly work. On what legal basis would all the decisions of a conservation board be subject to appeal? Would it be to a local authority or to representative bodies? If conservation boards are set up, with their own powers and duties, separate from local authorities, it is not easy to see how we could, or would want to, make them generally subject to being overruled by local authorities. What representative bodies would be involved? What legal vires would exist to allow them to overrule decisions by a properly constituted conservation board? I regret that I am unable to support this amendment.

Lord Rotherwick: I thank the Minister for her comments. Perhaps at a later stage, we shall return with an amendment that may be more workable and will clarify the situation to which she referred. I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 3, leave out lines 13 to 15

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment. The powers of acquisition and ownership are already present in the local authority. If the conservation boards are to operate properly, they will need to co-operate with the local authorities and co-ordinate their efforts. The power of acquisition and ownership is too much to give to an appointed body. This power should reside with an elected local authority and it should be used in the protection of AONBs, through the advice from the conservation board. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I speak to Amendments Nos. 32 to 38, which have been grouped with Amendment No. 17.

The purpose of these amendments is to remove the powers of compulsion from the ability of the conservation board to acquire and dispose of land. This was a point that was made very strongly by noble Lords in the Second Reading debate, and I confess that I have considerable sympathy with it. I must point out, for the avoidance of doubt, that the conservation board would still have the right to acquire and dispose of land, but not to acquire it compulsorily. It is at that point that my amendments disagree with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Rotherwick.

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH28

There are, of course, those who would ask why an AONB conservation board should have any reason to acquire land. There will be occasions--a typical example would be the Sussex Downs--when a piece of land becomes available that others wish to use, perhaps for a travellers' site or a waste disposal site. It is available; it is within the AONB. The local authority may be unwilling or reluctant to incur the trouble and expense of buying it because it will have passed on the duties of looking after the AONB to the conservation board. Thus it is an important point for the future.

I hope that, in the future, conservation boards will have the right to acquire and to dispose of land, and of course, the funds to do it. Many on this Committee may say that they will have the power, but will never have the funding; and that may well be true. I can think of an instance where there is a small piece of land available at the moment in an area by Cuckmere Haven. It is a small stretch. It is between National Trust land and a working farmer's land. It is an area through which a lot of people would like to pass on their way down to the beach, and it may be available for sale. It would be a very sensible piece of land for our conservation board to acquire by agreement.

There is no intention whatever that the conservation board could make widespread use of this power. I fully accept that private landowners and farmers should continue to exercise their historic stewardship, and I would expect them to do that. It is very unlikely that the conservation board will have much money with which to acquire land, but they should have the powers. I hope, therefore, that this Committee will agree to these amendments which would, while removing the compulsion altogether, still leave the board with the right to acquire and to dispose of land. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I had not intended to speak on this point, but the noble Lord mentioned one particularly painful difficulty; that is, a travellers' site. Having experienced the difficulty of a travellers' site in an AONB, I feel that it is important to realise that the board might be pushed down a road, if it was left with this power to acquire land, that would bring it into conflict with local authorities. I feel also that the board may begin to feel that buying land as a way of solving problems was easier than resolving those difficulties, which would take a long time and an awful lot of negotiating.

I feel that the spirit of the board embodies an entity that manages, negotiates and brings parties together in the interest of the AONB. I would be nervous that, first, it would be diverted from that duty in the place of boards that perhaps develop acquisitive tendencies. Secondly, there might also be a difficulty where a board felt that by acquiring land it would solve problems in a particular way--not necessarily by excluding travellers but, for example, by excluding affordable housing in an area where it did not want it, whereas it would be better negotiating where those houses might go rather than buying its way out of that difficulty. I support the amendment.

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH29

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I speak first to Amendment No. 17. The Government cannot accept the amendment at this stage because it seems possible, without prejudice to the eventual decisions, that statutory conservation boards may need some power to acquire or dispose of land in particular circumstances, leaving aside, for the purposes of Amendment No. 17, the question of compulsory purchase.

The Government also cannot accept Amendments Nos. 32 to 38. We should wish to look very carefully at the question of whether or not conservation boards should be given powers of compulsory purchase. Amendments Nos. 32 to 38, taken together, remove compulsory purchase powers for AONB conservation boards from the Bill. The Government have not come to a final view as to whether AONB conservation boards, should they come into being, should be allowed compulsory purchase powers. I said on Second Reading that we would not expect such powers to be needed very often.

Lord Jopling: I am slightly puzzled because on page 3 of the Bill, Clause 3(5) says:

    "A conservation board shall have the powers of ownership and acquisition of land set out in the Third Schedule to this Act." However, there does not appear to be a Schedule 3. Before we go any further, it would be quite helpful to know what this is all about.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: Perhaps I can help my noble friend. It is the Third Schedule as quoted at the top of page 7. It is the Third Schedule to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which appears in the present Bill as Schedule 1. These are all references to the Third Schedule of the national parks Act in which we are omitting certain sections which would otherwise have given us compulsory powers.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page