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Lord Whitty: Something of that nature may help when access rights are implemented. However, what walkers will really need is more detailed local information. That will be a matter for the access authorities.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I found the debate useful. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that I use the words "quite apparent" in my amendment in the sense that my American brother-in-law uses the word "quite" when he says, "You look quite nice". He assures me that that means very nice.

Viscount Bledisloe: I say to the noble Baroness that on the whole it is undesirable that we should legislate in "American".

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I do not think that I am in a position to comment on that. The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, illustrates why I considered it necessary to table the amendment. As the Minister said, by-law breaches incur a criminal penalty. A duty to publicise by-laws on the part of an access authority is different from having to make them "quite apparent". One can fulfil one's duty in that

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regard by putting up a small sign somewhere. I feel strongly that the public should be protected in some way. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Wardens]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 221:

    Page 11, line 1, at beginning insert--

("( ) The Secretary of State shall ensure that sufficient funding is available to enable an access authority or district council to comply with this section.").

The noble Baroness said: This is possibly the most important amendment that I shall move in the whole of Part I. Therefore I make no apology for the length of the case I intend to make for it.

The amendment seeks to ensure that sufficient funding is available to access authorities or district councils to comply with the provisions of Clause 18(1) on the appointment of wardens. The regulatory impact study mentions a cost of £2.2 million per annum, whereas the Local Government Association's estimate is £5.46 million per annum. I seek to explore the gap between those two figures and seek an explanation from the Minister as to how the Government intend to fund this particularly important service. The appointment of wardens is a key provision and yet the financing of wardens is discretionary as the Bill is drafted at present. However, other provisions in the Bill are not discretionary in this regard; for example, the hearing of appeals. As I say, the appointment of wardens is absolutely key to the success of open access. It would be disastrous if some of the statutory provisions were to be adequately funded, but not the appointment of wardens.

The amendment seeks to ensure that access authorities can meet the need to appoint wardens and can be assured of obtaining sufficient funding from the Government. Wardens--or "rangers" as I prefer to call them, as that is the accepted term for people who work in open spaces, whereas I believe that "wardens" usually work in prisons--will be essential to make the opportunities offered by the Bill work. They will be essential to monitor the interface between the public enjoying the access, landowners trying to manage their businesses and make a living from the land, and wildlife. Their presence will be essential to prevent conflicts occurring.

The Bill states that an access authority "may appoint such number". That is the correct terminology as the access authorities are in the best position to judge what is needed in that regard. However, estimates vary according to the kind of access land that is being managed and the pressure upon it. For example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in its report, Land Management Implications of Enhanced Access estimates that in the densely populated heaths and commons of southern England one ranger per 400 hectares is the minimum. With back-up, tools and administration, it estimates this is likely to cost £35,000 to £45,000 per 400 hectares. The

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same report estimates a moorland cost of about £24,000 per year for two rangers who cover about 2,000 hectares and spend half their time on visitor management.

Members of the Committee may have received the Local Government Association's report, Costs to Local Authorities of New Access Legislation. That is an informative report which I hope the Committee and the Minister have received. It was published last week. The detail is extremely useful. Having consulted widely with its membership of national park authorities and local authorities, it concludes that management costs will be about £3.50 per hectare. That is an average; the figure will vary widely. Members of the Committee will be aware that local authorities which face these costs are the very authorities which are struggling with the difficulties of delivering services in sparsely populated areas.

If sufficient funding is not provided by central Government to enable them to appoint an appropriate number of wardens, they will not be able to do so. They will be unable to cut further their social services budget, and the cost of maintaining, for example, a rural schools network has already involved choices. I believe strongly in maintaining that rural school network. However, choices are sometimes made that rural roads will suffer. Provision of rangers will be somewhat towards the end of that list. If no finance is supplied, it will be difficult to fit that cost into the budget.

Appointing rangers is a choice for local authorities but one that they are unlikely to be able to make if they do not have the money. Under the Bill, local authorities will have to give evidence at mapping inquiries, estimated at about £2,500 per inquiry. They may have to enforce means of access. The order will cost about £2,000 per case and the hearing £2,500. They may have to conduct detailed investigations of queries over common land, again about £2,000 a case. They will not have a choice over those but they need to be able to make the choice of appointing an appropriate number of wardens.

In addition, the costs of dealing with footpath erosion, especially in the national parks, are already unable to be met. That problem is likely to increase. Lake District erosion is estimated to be £2.5 million over the next five years, with probably a similar programme after that. I gather that the national figure is even higher.

Excellent figures are available from Bob Cartwright's research in the Lake District. He prepared it on behalf of the Association of National Park Authorities. Parks are making an excellent use of voluntary rangers, but even those volunteers cost money. Let us take the North York Moors with four rangers and five vehicles. It estimates that it will take on 50 additional voluntary rangers, and with provision of information and local access forums the total costs under Part I of the Bill will come to an extra £302,000 per year--and that is with extensive use of volunteers. I have not quoted the costs under Part II. For access authorities they will be higher--we shall deal with

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them later; the Government have made their own estimate. Neither have I dealt with the costs of AONBs, which are under-funded. Again we shall deal with those later.

How do the Government intend to fund access authorities for the increased costs of the discretionary aspects of the Bill and the gap between the regulatory impact assessment and the authorities' own assessment--it seems very fair--of what their costs will be? Will they make a blanket increase based on the area of land and the way in which and how much that land is used by the public? What formula are they likely to use? I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I am very glad the noble Baroness moved this amendment and that she spoke in the way that she did. I, too, received a communication from local government councils on the subject. It was extremely interesting. The Minister has sitting beside him the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, who knows as much as anyone in this Chamber about how local government works and the pressures upon it.

All of us who have been in local government know how keen governments are to pile expense upon local authorities without adding to their funding. When the noble Baroness winds up, perhaps she will tell us whether she is asking for ring-fenced funding. I am not keen on encouraging ring-fenced funding because I am a believer in the discretion of local government. The noble Baroness spoke of this issue being a matter of choice for local government so she is probably not asking for ring-fenced funding. However, when she replies I, and I think the Committee, will be interested to know.

I hope that the Minister listened to her questions which were very much to the point. I hope that the noble Lord will reply with a fairly detailed answer.

Earl Peel: The noble Baroness raises some important questions. I, too, have seen the figures to which she referred. It is incumbent on the Government to give a clear answer.

Having been involved with the Yorkshire Dales for many years, my experience of the warden system there brings me to a somewhat cynical outlook. The largest privately owned estate in the Yorkshire Dales entered some years ago into an access agreement with the national park authorities. It was assured that it would be provided with a proper warden service. Over the years the wardens have become depleted. I do not know the present level. For all I know, it could be down to one lone warden--or, in the words of the noble Baroness, one lone ranger. It is an unsatisfactory outcome. It is essential that if the Bill is to work effectively we must have a proper warden system which will be an important link between the general public and those who wish to exercise the access provisions in the Bill.

The noble Baroness referred to the figure of £3.50 per hectare. On the matter of costing--it is slightly irrelevant but it may be indicative of the Government's

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attitude towards funding--in the Peak Park the cost to local owners of the access provisions for areas where access has been negotiated was in the nature of £4 per hectare. That seems to have been forgotten conveniently by the Government. There are no realistic provisions in the Bill for meeting the true access costs. The noble Baroness puts forward the realistic figure of £3.50 per hectare. I shall listen carefully to the Minister.

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