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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 462:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 463:

    Page 91, line 34, leave out second ("and") and insert ("to").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 463 to 465 may look rather daunting. However, their intent is simple. It is to allow the conservation agencies to make adjustments to SSSIs in the light of new information or further knowledge.

Amendment No. 464 seeks to enable the conservation agencies to rationalise existing SSSIs by making essentially minor extensions to them. The amendment is not open-ended. It provides that the power can only be used where the additional land is adjacent to the SSSI and where it can be combined with that SSSI to form an area of land of SSSI quality by the reason of the flora and fauna of the original SSSI. In other words, if we tried to use this provision to make major extensions, we would inevitably be changing the character of the SSSI and it would not work. Existing owners and occupiers of the SSSI are not affected. But the owners of the adjacent land are given full rights to make representations or objections.

Amendment No. 465 enables the conservation agencies to enlarge the area of an SSSI in rather wider terms to Amendment No. 464 but there are additional safeguards. The amendment provides that where the conservation agencies consider that an area of land together with an existing SSSI forms a larger area which is of SSSI quality, it may establish a new SSSI for the whole area. This is so even if the flora, fauna and special features of the combined area are different from those of the original SSSI. However, the conservation agencies will be required to give notice to all the owners and occupiers of the combined area, so the owners and occupiers of the original SSSI will be notified. All owners and occupiers are given the right to make representations and objections as though the area is a new SSSI. Therefore, no one is being deprived of his normal rights under Section 28.

In relation to a boundary amendment to reduce the area of land covered by the notification, the agency would use the de-notification procedures in new Section 28B of Schedule 8, which may be applied to all or part of a site. It is common sense for the agencies to be able to make these changes. Notifying adjacent land as a separate SSSI could lead to confusion for all concerned. However, we have also sought to protect the interests of owners and occupiers of the land by making sure that the agency must notify the relevant people and by providing those persons with the opportunity to make representations about the changes. Any representations which are not subsequently withdrawn would be considered by the agency's council before the notification is confirmed. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness: I have two brief questions to ask the Minister. Why in Amendment No. 464 is the present landowner not consulted, yet a neighbouring landowner would be consulted? As my noble friend the Duke of Montrose pointed out earlier, adjacent land is affected by an SSSI so why is it necessary to have Amendment No. 464? The noble Lord, Lord

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McIntosh, earlier asked me to give evidence to support my request so perhaps I may ask the same of him. What evidence does he have that English Nature requires this power?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The answer to the noble Earl's first question is that by definition Amendment No. 464 cannot change the characteristics of the existing SSSI. Therefore, there can be no legal obligation to consult the owners of the existing SSSI. There will be no change in the regime that applies to them.

As regards his second question about examples, English Nature advises us that there are occasions when the SSSI will be improved without being changed by addition of a modest amount of adjacent land.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Perhaps I may help by giving an example of that last point. If, for example, a riverine SSSI is notified and eventually confirmed, as many as 400 owners and occupiers can be involved. That will be subject to the length of the river and the fact that small parts of people's land are contiguous to it.

If any change to the boundary of an SSSI is required there must be a process of going back to all 400 landowners, even though they might be 20 miles away down the river. That would be the case even to take only a small parcel of land which was omitted on the first occasion because there was insufficient information about its quality or because, frankly, people got it wrong.

The proposal is put forward in order to try to take the burden off landowners. We want to avoid anyone who is not discommoded by an extension having to read through the whole consultation process again. Therefore, I hope that the proposal will be seen as positive rather than negative.

Lord Bridges: As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred to new Section 28C perhaps this is a convenient moment to express my anxieties about the present drafting. The problem, which does not arise directly as a result of any particular amendment, concerns the withdrawal of a notice of consent. The Shellfish Association of Great Britain has alerted me to a difficulty which may arise in the area where I live. I do not own a fishery and shellfish disagree with me. However, that activity takes place on the river surrounding the place where I live, and I am somewhat concerned by the provision as presently drafted.

The village of Orford in which I live was a medieval port. In the 13th century Henry III gave the then Borough of Orford a charter in which he conveyed to it the rights of several fishery. Orford became a rotten borough in the 18th century. It was disfranchised under the Great Reform Bill and, under the subsequent Municipal Corporations Act, its assets were transferred to a town trust, which continues to this day. The trust controls the fishery in a serious way and is registered with the Charity Commissioners. It employs a bailiff and a committee deals with the

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fishery. That committee meets twice a year to receive a report from the bailiff. As far as I know, its affairs are carried on very properly.

However, it is possible that English Nature may, for some reason, become concerned about the fishery. If so, the procedure to be followed worries me. New Section 28C(6) provides that the council may withdraw the consent or modify it in any way. An appeal against that decision is to the Secretary of State. I very much hope that that will not happen, but if it does I question whether that is the right way for the appeal to be referred. I would have thought it more appropriate for the rights conveyed under a royal charter granted 650 years ago to be referred to a court rather than the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State has a close relationship with the agency since he funds it and appoints its members. In those circumstances, I do not believe that the Secretary of State has the right degree of independence to make a withdrawal of such a fundamental right. I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer this question completely today, but I should be grateful if he would give it attention, possibly with a view to slight amendment at a later stage. This is a matter of natural justice in the context of a long-standing right.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We try to anticipate, as far as possible, questions that may arise from amendments. When they do not do so it is a little more difficult to deal with. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, will allow me to write to him on this matter.

The Duke of Montrose: I am grateful to hear the response of the Minister to Amendment No. 465. I believe that I am now a little wiser on the subject than I was. The Minister said that, under Amendment No. 465, if an SSSI was extended its nature might be changed and owners would be notified. Does it mean that all the existing management agreements would fall and fresh ones would have to be introduced to cover the stipulations in the new SSSI?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is most unlikely that the change we anticipate in Amendment No. 465 will necessitate the renegotiation of management agreements. However, if it did so, in the light of the principles of natural justice I am sure that it would be possible to find a way to do that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 463A:

    Page 92, line 17, at end insert--

("( ) Where a notice under subsection (3) has been given and is subsequently withdrawn, the Council shall reimburse any costs reasonably incurred by any of the persons mentioned in subsection (3) in making any representation or objection in relation to the notice.").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 463A I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 487A. I hope that both noble Lords opposite have received calls to join the English cricket side; they are

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better at defence than the team appears to be. So far they have said "no" to everything that we have put to them today.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In the course of proceedings at Committee stage we have been criticised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for being too receptive and running the risk of an over-extended Report stage.

Baroness Byford: I should like to put the record straight. When Members of the Committee are not in the Chamber at the right moment sometimes there is misunderstanding. I am grateful for what Ministers have tried to do. However, I said earlier that if noble Lords opposite accepted our amendments the Report stage would be even shorter. However, I suggest that we move on.

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