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Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I very much welcome the fact that the Government have decided to respond to the fairly strongly expressed feeling on all sides in

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Committee that there should be reference in the Bill to the importance of adequate opportunities for exercise as one of the matters which local authorities should consider when preparing their rights of way plans. I also welcome the fact that the Government have made clear that cycle tracks constitute one kind of the rights of way which have to be considered in those plans. Both changes reflect the strongly held views of the House that there is a need and a demand from the public to consider the rights of way network in the context of the needs of the 21st century. I support Amendments Nos. 181A and 185 to 187. I do not intend to move Amendment No. 183.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we, too, felt very strongly at Committee stage that cycle tracks should be included because without them there would be no possiblility of looking at a reasonable multi-use approach. We welcome the fact that the Government have brought forward their own amendment.

I wonder whether the amendment concerning cycle tracks is more narrowly drawn than our Amendment No. 187. Would fewer cycle tracks be included in the government amendment? I suspect that that might be the case. Nevertheless, we are very happy that the Government have brought forward their amendment on the subject.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I support these amendments. We had a very full discussion which I shall not go over again. Can the Minister tell me why the Government have resiled from Amendment No. 368AA of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and myself, which gave greater flexibility? Perhaps there is good reason for that. I shall be grateful for an explanation.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Baroness is referring to public health in the noble Lord's original amendment. That is clearly a wider concept than exercise. It is probably too wide to expect a local highways authority to assess all the implications for public health in the context of looking at its rights of way plan. We felt it better to focus on exercise as a form of open-air recreation rather than deal with the wider issue of public health which includes many more issues for consideration.

As regards Amendment No. 187, I believe that the noble Baroness's amendment would include more cycle tracks. We would wish to exclude those that run alongside a made-up carriageway under certain conditions. We would wish specifically to exclude them as we are excluding footpaths which use the made-up carriageway. That is the explanation as to why we believe that our amendment is better.

I have found another piece of information regarding the noble Baroness's earlier amendment, which relates to the existence of an extinguishment order. It may be that the existence of such an agreement is something which the confirming authority would be sensible to consider as the Act requires. There would be a range of

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such factors which it would need to take into account, depending on the circumstances. If we picked out the existence of an extinguishment order specfically, there could arise the suggestion that other considerations should be taken into account. We believe that the authority would have to act reasonably. Were such an order in place, it would need to be taken into account along with other possible legal qualifications of the position. If we spell out one aspect and not others, we could find ourselves with a problem. That is why we did not think it right to include that part of the noble Baroness's amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 182 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No.183 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 184:

    Page 35, line 40, at end insert--

("( ) the extent to which the network may be organised to provide walkers, horse riders and cyclists with the maximum opportunity to pursue their recreation off highways used by mechanically propelled vehicles,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we believe that, as drafted, the Bill tends to leave a gap in the matters that need to be examined as regards the way in which the rights of way improvement plan is published. We have just debated the fact that the Government have seen fit to bring exercise on to the face of the Bill. But taking it along a footpath or cycle track at the edge of a carriageway would not fulfil the aspirations which were mentioned in Committee; namely, the opportunity to pursue walking, riding and cycling away from the noise and fumes of the motor car. That is why, even at this late stage, I have retabled an amendment which places considerable emphasis on the off-road opportunities which should be offered to people. I believe that we may debate that further on Amendment No. 188 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I regard my amendment as paving the way for the sort of debate which may arise on that amendment. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I support the amendment. It would be very sad if we were to leave Clause 57 without it focusing in any way on vulnerable traffic such as horse riders who are increasingly involved in accidents on the highway. At present, there is a missed opportunity in the Bill. An amendment of this sort would focus local highway authorities' attention on the need to provide for what is a growing number of people who will, in the future, be more and more vulnerable. Even at this stage, I hope that the

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Minister will feel it right to include something of that sort in the purposes which the local highway authorities must consider.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I support the noble Baroness's amendment. I am not entirely sure that this issue will arise on my next amendment. I believe that the provisions of this amendment are very important.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, briefly, I add an additional point to those matters raised by my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, which I fully support.

This amendment includes the words "maximum opportunity". There is still considerable doubt among people using rights of way and organisations representing walkers and horse riders about the purposes of rights of way improvement plans and what the word "improvement" really means. There is real concern that in some places highways authorities may take the opportunity of "rationalising" and we end up with a network which is thought to provide sufficient opportunities in relation to what people nowadays want but, nevertheless, will result in quite a reduction in the number of paths and bridleways available. The words "maximum opportunity" written into the Bill would be a useful counter to that possible tendency.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I add my support for the amendment. I suspect that the Government may say that it is not technically correct, but I hope not. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, raised a very important point in relation to horse riders who use the roads. It applies too in relation to cyclists but I am thinking of horse riders in particular. Horse riding is an increasingly popular sport these days and much of the riding is done by very young people in comparatively difficult circumstances on some of our roads. I speak as a parent when I say that I am sure we should all wish to ensure that those youngsters are off the road as much as possible.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Amendment No. 184 would require local highway authorities, when preparing rights of way improvement plans, to assess the extent to which their local rights of way network could be organised to maximise the recreational opportunities for walkers, horse riders and cyclists away from routes used by mechanically propelled vehicles. Those are admirable objectives.

Rights of way networks are made up mainly of routes-- principally, footpaths and bridleways--not normally used by motor vehicles. The assessments which local highway authorities will be required to undertake in preparing their improvement plans are meant to take account of the extent to which local rights of way meet the present and likely future needs of the public as a whole. They are also meant to assess the extent to which rights of way provide opportunities for open-air recreation.

I certainly agree with all noble Lords who have spoken that there are good reasons why walkers, horse riders, cyclists and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles would generally prefer not to share rights of way with

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motorised vehicles. Indeed, that has been the theme throughout virtually all our debates today. Issues of safety, as well as noise and other factors, arise. Having said that, not all walkers like sharing with cyclists or horse riders. There can be conflicts between these as well as between other groups. However, the important point is that we believe that the objectives of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, can be met without amending the Bill.

In practice, most users are likely to be walkers, cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles. I said on an earlier amendment that byways open to all traffic are only 2 per cent of all rights of way. Roads used as public paths, which are the foundation for the new category of restricted byways, make up a further 3 per cent. Footways and bridleways make up 95 per cent of the rights of way in England and Wales.

One of the key questions for local highway authorities to consider in preparing the plans will be the case for creating new rights of way. That is the emphasis, I am sure, that there will be in the plans and that is what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, wants. He is quite right. Sections 25 and 26 of the Highways Act 1980 provide express powers to create footpaths and bridleways by agreement or order. It would be possible to extend those powers to restricted byways, again excluding motorised vehicles, by the regulation-making power in Clause 49. We shall be looking sympathetically at that when we come to make the regulations. However, there is no similar specific power to create byways open to all traffic which can be used by motorised vehicles and I want to make it clear that we do not intend to introduce one.

So, in practice, the patterns of use and the powers available to local authorities to create new rights of way already favour non-motorised users. There will be scope to cover the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, in the statutory guidance on improvement plans to be issued by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.

We are keen to avoid adding to the list of matters on the face of the Bill which local highway authorities are required to consider because of the risk of distorting the assessment process in favour of one or more particular interests. I hope that I have shown that all the objectives which the noble Baroness has in proposing the amendment exist already and that it would be undesirable to encourage further additions to Clause 57.

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