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Lord Luke: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I cannot say that I am altogether happy with it, particularly with regard to the safety angle on Amendment No. 159. We may return to that later but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 160 and 161 not moved.]

4 a.m.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 162:

Page 3, line 33, leave out from ("feature") to end of line 35 and insert ("where the effect is to exclude part of an area of open country").

The noble Earl said: Part of Clause 4(5)(b) is a rather nasty underhand piece of legislation. We are led to believe that the definition of the land over which access is to be granted is to be mountain, moor, heath and down and, lo and behold, in paragraph (b) we see something totally different which allows the mapping authority to include any other land that it sees fit to include. That blows a hole right through the definition and the understanding in relation to this Bill. It is misleading.

The other land could be farmland, river bank, foreshore, coastal fringe, woodland, all the land that the Government have said is not included in the Bill. Here we have the escape route for the mapping authority to include such land. Why has this been permitted? I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The reason we have provided in the Bill a discretion for the countryside bodies to map the boundary of open country is precisely so that it coincides, where appropriate, with a physical feature of landscape. That may mean that some open country is excluded if there is a wall, a hedgerow or a stream just inside the boundary of open countryside which may make a more recognisable boundary, or it may mean that some land which does not fall within the definition of open country is, nevertheless, mapped as such if there is a more suitable boundary feature on the ground outside the actual limits of open country.

This provision in the Bill takes account of the fact that open country does not always come in clearly defined parcels of land. It may not be clear on the ground where heathland ceases and woodland begins, or, even armed with a map, neither user nor landowner

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will be able to tell where the right of access applies if the threshold is a line on a map that is not correlated to any physical feature.

Amendment No. 162 would alter the balance of discretion so that the mapping authorities could map to a feature only where it falls within the area of open country. That would mean that where an obvious physical feature lay close to, but beyond the boundary of open country, the countryside body would not be able to map to it. It would either have to leave the boundary where it is, undefined in relation to any physical feature, or map inwards to another feature which could exclude a substantial area of potential access land.

I can reassure the noble Earl that we expect the countryside bodies to make careful use of this discretion. Any land so included would need to be clearly contiguous with a parcel of open country and be relatively minor in extent. We would expect the countryside bodies to take account of the way in which the land is to be used and not to include it if a right of access would be incompatible. This discretion could not be used to include in maps of open country substantial areas of improved farmland or intensively grazed pastures because it is most unlikely that the boundary of open country could be mapped beyond the first intervening fence or other boundary feature. We have provided a specific right of appeal for a landowner to the Secretary of State against the inclusion by the countryside body under this provision of any land on the map.

I hope that with that reassurance the noble Earl will not press his amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: We have some sympathy with this amendment. The reassurance that the Minister has given is helpful, but the words on the paper do not come that close to the words that she has used. It would have been useful to have words like "where convenient" or "where appropriate", something that linked back to the work that the Countryside Agency will carry out.

I am reassured, therefore, by what the Minister says. If the Government can find a way of translating that response into a couple of words that can go into the Bill, it would be even more reassuring.

The Earl of Caithness: I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She put her finger right on the problem.

The Minister confirmed that the mapping authority can designate any land it so wishes when it happens to see a suitable boundary, wherever that might be. But there is nothing in the Bill remotely to limit the mapping authority in the way the Minister explained to the Committee. There is nothing to say that the land must be close by. The Minister said that a substantial area of potential access land could be excluded. Equally, a substantial area of non-access land could be included for exactly the same reason; that is, that the best and most logical physical boundary is a considerable distance away. The warning must

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therefore go out to every landowner and tenant that it is not moorland, moor, down and heath; it is any land that the mapping authority considers relevant due to physical features.

Perhaps the Minister will take away this matter and come back with a more limited definition, perhaps limiting the size of land that the mapping authority could include. If not, it blows a complete hole in the definition.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It may help both the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for me to indicate that I am prepared to consider whether the Bill should be clearer on the criteria. I listened carefully to the points raised.

The Earl of Caithness: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her constructive and helpful response. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 163:

Page 3, line 35, at end insert (", and
( ) shall identify at least one specific location ("a designated access point") where access to each discrete area of open country can conveniently be provided for the public, taking into account the needs of land management, and where information on the rights of the public and on any restrictions or closures of the access land can be made available").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 163, with the Committee's permission I shall speak also to Amendment No. 167.

The object of Amendment No. 163 is to require the bodies--the CA and CCW--to identify at least one access point on the maps for each parcel of access land which they map. It will be important for the effective management of the right of access that the CA and CCW identify on the draft maps a designated access point where access can conveniently be provided to each area of open country. There will be points, for example, near roads where car parking can readily be provided or where rights of way enter the land or terminate on it. Those access points could also serve as essential reference points where walkers are able to obtain information on their rights and responsibilities and on any closures or restrictions on access to the adjacent land.

It is important for the convenience of the public that maps of access land clearly identify points where the public can readily gain access to the access land, especially day visitors or holidaymakers, who are most unlikely to be familiar with the area. Users will need to be guided to places where they may safely park their cars and to points where information on access rights and restrictions is readily available. If access points are clearly marked on the maps produced by the CA and CCW, it will be straightforward for the Ordnance Survey to transfer that information to the published maps most likely to be used by the public. If such points are not mapped, the Ordnance Survey will have

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1450

to obtain that information separately by ground survey, leading to delays and the provision of information which is limited and selective.

It is important that the access points are sited so as to take full account of land management needs, otherwise there will be problems for land managers. They will also need to be convenient for the public, otherwise they will not be used. The durability of the substratum is also important. Access authorities might need to provide limited surfacing of heavily used access points. The aim should be to site the points to maximise convenience and to minimise detrimental effects.

Identifying possible access points on draft maps would enable a full debate to take place over the number of points and their location in relation to any parcel of access land and to facilities for car parking and links with the rights-of-way network. It is important that this debate takes place early on and that a consensus is developed. If the issue of where walkers are to gain access to land and where information is to be provided for them is left to a late stage in the process, the result will be confusion for owners and walkers alike. That will result in conflict, which is the last thing anyone wants. Furthermore, information needs to be forwarded to Ordnance Survey at the same time as the final maps so that the access points can be clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps.

There is similar provision in relation to car park sites in various areas. I refer for example to the 1:25,000 tourist maps of Dartmoor and the location of information posts on Ministry of Defence training land. It is important that this information is also shown on Ordnance Survey maps of access land. The Government are rightly keen to avoid having a plethora of signs on open country. The number could be minimised by encouraging walkers to enter access land at specific designated points. Owners would not then necessarily feel the need to put up other signs elsewhere.

The Government appear to want to resist including information on the statutory maps beyond the location of open land. It is true that the published maps--for example, of the Ordnance Survey--will be used far more by the public than the statutory maps but that should not preclude the use of draft maps to assist in the process of identifying where the access points should be. Once agreement has been reached, the access points could be left off the final confirmed maps.

However, if the issue of where access points should be located is not settled before the final maps have been prepared, there will be substantial confusion. The issue should be settled as far as possible through the consultations on the draft maps.

Access points could also be integrated with the Government's policy on green transport. Public transport services could use access points as dropping-off points. Increased congestion in the countryside as the public make full use of their new right would detract from the benefit the new right gives.

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The Government should require the CA and the CCW to include access points on draft maps of access land so that a full debate can be held over the number and location of these points alongside discussions of whether the land should be included at all and what closures and restrictions might be needed in relation to it.

I turn to Amendment No. 177. The grounds for appeal against provisional maps are currently limited. Landowners will want to raise issues related to the proper identification of mountain, moor, heath and down; the inclusion of inaccessible parcels of land, or parcels whose inclusion would serve no useful purpose; and the location of access points. The owners and occupiers of the land will know their land better than anyone else doing the mapping, especially if the mapping is largely based on remote sources such as aerial photographs. The grounds of appeal should be wide enough to cover all possible aspects of mapping, not just those related to the identification of the land. I beg to move.

4.15 a.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): As Amendment No. 177 is also being spoken to, I must point out to the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 178.

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