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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I understand why he would prefer me not to pursue it. I might prefer not to pursue it myself! However, his statement will be helpful to local authorities. I hope that the charities which are concerned on this issue--I refer, for example, to the Woodland Trust--will take up his offer; and that noble Lords who are interested on their behalf will look at the guidance in the Library. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.

7.45 a.m.

Lord Northbrook moved Amendment No. 210:

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause--

("Visitor management facilities

.--(1) Where access to access land gives rise to a need for the provision of new or improved visitor management facilities there shall be a duty on the access authority either--
(a) to provide and maintain the facility directly in consultation with those with an interest in the relevant land; or
(b) to provide funding for the provision and maintenance of the facility.
(2) Where agreement on the need for such facilities or the cost of providing them cannot be achieved the parties shall have resort to a dispute resolution process prescribed by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment would place a duty on access authorities to provide visitor management facilities. Because of the current crisis in the sector, many farmers do not have the income to support the capital or revenue costs that the Bill requires of them. The amendment would require the access authorities to support the provision of facilities that the additional number of visitors to the countryside generated by the Bill will require.

Capital and revenue payments should be granted to landowners affected by the new access legislation if a clear need for new facilities is established. Capital costs for car parks, signs, information boards, litter collection, lockable barriers and other items should be 100 per cent reimbursed. Landowners and tenants will be providing access to their land for the public good. The public have a responsibility to fund the serious additional costs imposed by the Bill.

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Asking the access authority to fund improvements and facilities would be of great benefit to visitors to the access land in question. We do not anticipate that many of those with an interest in the land will provide extensive facilities from which there will be little or no revenue. The practical implementation should be agreed between the access authority and those with an interest in the land. A standard schedule of payments could be used for capital items, much as already exists for environmental schemes. Access management agreements could be drawn up showing requirements for car parks, signs, stiles and information boards. The responsible authority and the landowner would agree who would undertake the work.

Naturally, in some circumstances there would be disagreements between the landowner or tenant and the access authority about what was necessary. In some cases, the access authority may be reluctant to fund a necessary improvement, such as a car park. Under those exceptional circumstances, a third party should be able to intervene. The amendment makes provision for a clear dispute resolution process. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: Again, I understand where the noble Lord is coming from. We largely share his aims, but we do not think that the amendment is necessary.

We all agree that there should be no obligation on landowners to provide the facilities that he is talking about. The Bill already allows for such facilities to be provided by the access authority at taxpayers' expense. For example, Clause 19 provides for notices to be erected informing the public of the boundaries of access land. Clause 33 refers to access authorities entering into agreements for the provision of means of access to land. All that is clearly the responsibility of access authorities. They have to make a judgment on their priorities as to where they provide such facilities.

A contribution could conceivably be required from a landowner, but only if they wanted, for example, a better or bigger gate than was strictly needed for access purposes. In general, the access authority would meet the cost.

However, we do not want to go as far as the noble Lord by putting a duty on access authorities to provide new visitor management facilities on every bit of access land. That would be bureaucratic and create the possibility of lengthy disputes. We also need to be wary, because we are talking about beautiful and in many cases very remote countryside. We do not necessarily want obtrusive notices or whole new areas dedicated to car parks or toilets in such areas. Therefore, largely we need to ensure that the priorities are met by access authorities and that, for example, they deal with honeypot spots--both existing and new ones--which might be generated as a result of the new access. In some cases, there would be third parties who would be prepared to participate in the costs of honeypot sites, and no doubt there would be money to be made out of car parks. Therefore, it would not necessarily have to come out of the council taxpayer's pocket.

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However, I do not believe that the structure to which the noble Lord refers is required in order to resolve this matter. The access authority has responsibility here. Practical facilities, such as stiles, gates and information provision, obviously will be covered. The provision of such facilities is already covered under Clause 19 and Chapter III of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that with those reassurances the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment.

Baroness Byford: Before my noble friend responds, perhaps I may take up the Minister on one or two issues. Earlier, in his response to one of my amendments, the Minister said that he did not believe that capital costs for landowners would be large. Now he recognises that there will be a capital cost in relation to signs, stiles and gates. If I followed through correctly his logical argument, I believe that those will now be installed at the taxpayer's expense and not the landowner's expense unless such items act as a benefit to the landowner. I accept his example of the gate.

In accepting the Minister's logic in the argument, I come back to a point which we have returned to so often on this Bill: cost. There is a cost as, indeed, the noble Lord has just indicated. However, at no stage have we obtained from the Government figures which relate to the cost of some of the commitments that they are making. I try to keep asking whether it is possible to be a little more specific.

On this occasion, the noble Lord said clearly that it will be the access authority which sets down what is required and it will make the payments. Earlier, we talked about that falling in some cases to the responsibility of the local authorities. Having talked to one or two local authorities, I am aware that they are concerned that their budgets are not ring-fenced and that they may well find themselves open to additional costs for which they do not necessarily have the money. I am particularly anxious about that matter but we appear to have jumped from one issue to another. Therefore, my question is: who will pay? Will it be the local authority; will it be the Countryside Agency, which I presume is the access authority; or will it be the taxpayer, as the noble Lord has just mentioned?

I add my support on the question of notices, as I have done before. We on these Benches are very anxious not to have a great many intrusive notices in the countryside. The very thing that people wish to visit will end up as a dreadful mess if hundreds of notices are scattered around the countryside. I accept that we are not talking about hundreds. However, in fairness, I believe that the noble Lord then went on to talk about the honeypot spots and referred to the fact that the Countryside Agency--I was not sure at that stage whether it was that agency or the local authority--would have to deal with some items as priorities.

I know that it is late and I suspect that we are all becoming a little muddled. However, I should be grateful for some clarification.

Lord Marlesford: Before the Minister replies, I should like to supplement what my noble friend has

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said. First, I find myself very much in agreement with what the Minister said regarding the principle that if there is a cost to pay, it should not be paid by the landowner who provides the access. Secondly, I agree that there should not be a statutory obligation to provide facilities. I am looking at the matter from a landscape point of view. My own particular interest is in the protection of rural England but I certainly include Wales as well. It is most important that that great asset of access which is to be more widely shared, and which I have always welcomed, should not lead to municipalisation of the landscape in any form. We do not want extra car parks. Once there is an obligation to provide things, there will be a demand for them. Honeypots will be created so that the countryside looks like a series of honeypots, which would not be beautiful.

It is important that there should be a principle in relation to payments being made. After all, it already applies as regards footpaths. Local authorities provide bridges over ditches and proper gates and so on. But I say to my noble friend who moved the amendment that it is extremely important that we do not encourage the sort of infrastructure which I thought his amendment might have led to.

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