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Lord Luke: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 503:

(" . In section 32 (duties of agriculture Ministers with respect to areas of special scientific interest), in subsection (1), for "land notified under section 28(1)" there is substituted "land included in a site of special scientific interest".").

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The noble Baroness said: This amendment is one of a group of technical and consequential amendments which incorporates some minor changes.

Government Amendment No. 503 amends the reference to SSSIs in Section 32 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Amendment No. 513 amends the reference to SSSIs within the definition of a sensitive area in the Harbours Act 1964. The purpose of both is to include land notified under the new Section 28AA or AB on variation of a boundary, as well as SSSIs notified under Section 28(1).

Amendments Nos. 504 to 508 are technical amendments which clarify the definition of "a notification" in the 1981 Act to include notifications which have been modified or varied under the various procedures in the Bill.

Amendment No. 514 merely corrects a typographical error in the Bill, which refers to "simplified planning development" rather than "simplified planning zone".

Government Amendment No. 551 deletes a superfluous reference to Section 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Committee may recall that we have already discussed the question of orders under Section 29 in the context of Amendment No. 500. I have explained that the Bill repeals this provision but provides appropriate alternative means of addressing problems which may arise on SSSIs. As a consequence of the repeal of Section 29, Section 30 of the 1981 Act (which provides for compensation where an order under Section 29 is made) is also being repealed, as can be seen in Part III of Schedule 11.

Government Amendment No. 552 inserts a further minor consequential repeal--this time to a reference to the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. This Act substituted "trusts of land" for "trusts for sale" in Section 30 of the 1981 Act, in relation to England and Wales. As part of the normal tidying-up exercise, we also need to repeal amendments to the main repealed amendment. That is the reason for government Amendment No. 552. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 504 to 508:

    Page 103, line 28, at end insert--

("( ) In subsection (2), after "district planning authority" insert "and, in sections 28 to 28B, shall also be construed in accordance with section 28(11);".").

    Page 103, line 33, at end insert--

("(d) extended under section 28AA(2), or
(e) extended with modifications by virtue of section 28AA(7),").

    Page 103, line 34, leave out ("in subsection (1), and in sections 28 to 28M,").

    Page 103, line 36, leave out from first ("as") to end of line and insert ("thus altered").

    Page 103, line 36, at end insert--

("( ) References to a notification under section 28(1) or 28(5)(b), or to a local land charge existing by virtue of section 28(9), shall be construed in accordance with section 28AB(9).").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 67 [Consequential amendments relating to s. 66]:

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 509:

    Page 42, line 37, at end insert--

("( ) Schedule (Transitional provisions and savings relating to sites of special scientific interest) (which makes transitional provisions and savings relating to the coming into force of section 66) has effect.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment introduces a new schedule ("after Schedule 9") setting out the transitional arrangements for SSSIs, as we move from the existing provisions of the 1981 Act to those provided by this Bill. The transitional arrangements make clear what will happen to sites affected by those existing provisions when this Bill comes into force. Noble Lords will have noted that the provisions are necessarily detailed: they have to provide for all situations that may exist in relation to existing SSSIs. We believe that they provide a suitable balance between the rights of owners or occupiers, and the new powers that the Bill gives to the conservation agencies, but we have throughout been mindful of the need to protect the special interests for which these sites have been notified.

It may be helpful to the Committee if I highlight the major features. First, we need to ensure that an SSSI notified under the old legislation continues as an SSSI under the new; and that all the rights and obligations in this new legislation apply to it. That is achieved in paragraph 2 of the schedule. Where an SSSI has been notified under the 1981 Act, but that notification has not yet been confirmed, these provisions will ensure that the process will continue.

Secondly, if a consent to an operation was given under the old legislation, that consent will still stand (paragraph 8(1)(b) provides for this). The conservation agency will be able, if necessary, to apply its new power to withdraw or modify that consent. But where that occurs, the same provisions concerning the right of appeal, and the making of payments, will apply as elsewhere in the Bill when consents are withdrawn or modified.

Thirdly, where an offence takes place on an SSSI, the legislation in force at the time of the offence will be that which applies. The new offences in Section 28M are not retrospective. By the same token, the requirement on public bodies to carry out operations giving rise to as little damage as possible and to restore any damage will not apply where operations have already started when the Bill's provisions come into force.

Fourthly, where a person gives notice of intent to carry out an operation listed as potentially damaging, the agency has four months under the existing legislation either to give consent or to offer a management agreement. Unfortunately, the agency has been able to do neither on occasions. In those cases, the owner or occupier has been free to go ahead

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with that operation, and the result has sometimes been damage to the SSSI. For those cases, we now propose providing the conservation agencies with the power to serve a "stop notice", which gives them the opportunity to look again at sites where damage is being caused to the special interest. This allows the application to those sites of the same powers to withdraw or modify consent, to which I have already referred. Similarly, there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State and a requirement on the agency to make a payment where the owner or occupier suffers loss as a consequence of the notice.

Fifthly, noble Lords will be aware that, under Section 29 of the 1981 Act, the conservation agency was able to apply to the Secretary of State for a nature conservation order to suspend the four-month period, during which a management agreement might be negotiated. In view of the increased powers available to the agencies under this Bill, such orders are no longer required. However, any land protected by an order when this Bill comes into force will continue to be protected under the new provisions. Accordingly, we have provided a power for the agencies also to serve a stop notice in appropriate circumstances. Again, the rights of the owner or occupier are protected by a right of appeal against the notice.

Finally, we consider it appropriate to bring some certainty to the situation where, having previously given notice of intent of operations under the 1981 Act and being free to go ahead in the circumstances that I have already explained, an owner or occupier has not yet carried out the work. These may be operations that could damage the SSSI and they may have resulted from notices issued by owners as yet uncertain about future plans. We do not believe that these should have an extended life. Therefore, if they are not implemented within three years of this part of the Act coming into force, we propose that they should cease to have effect. Should the owner or occupier wish to undertake the potentially damaging activity at a future date, he would, under the new provisions, be able to apply to the agency for consent in the normal way.

It is also important for me to say something briefly about the application of these provisions to Wales. Amendments Nos. 543A, 543B and 543C ensure that the functions of Ministers in respect of the transitional schedule are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. The main provisions in the Bill are devolved by Clause 73. This is consistent with the devolution of the existing provisions in the 1981 Act, which has already taken place under the Transfer of Functions Order 1999. It means that the Assembly will, for example, be able to determine appeals arising from a refusal of consent. But the transitional provisions are included in a separate and free-standing schedule to this Bill. In order that the Assembly may determine appeals arising on the transitional provisions--for example, in appealing against a stop notice--we need to make separate reference to the schedule in the Transfer of Functions Order. That is what the amendments will achieve.

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Perhaps I may also mention a point here that noble Lords may intend to return to later when we discuss Amendment No. 515B: the means of service of a stop notice. Service of notices under the 1981 Act is provided for through Section 329 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as applied by Section 70A of the 1981 Act. This contains provisions for personal service where necessary. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment because it has caused us to have some doubts as to whether the wording of the schedule properly attracts the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act. Certainly that is our attention. We shall, therefore, consider the point again and, if necessary, bring forward an amendment on Report. I beg to move.

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