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Earl Peel: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 210 in principle. However, the words of my noble friend Lord Monro need to be heeded. Much of what he says is right. I accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, says about how much farmers welcome the additional income that comes on the back of an SSSI designation, that is not the original purpose of the designation; it is a by-product. Welcome though it may be, we need to be very careful that these designations do not get out of hand or become too draconian, and that they do not impose too much on the ability of people who own land to manage that
In regard to Amendment No. 210, the noble Lord, Lord Monro, is right in his reference to the Pennines. Large areas of the Pennines have been designed as SSSIs. I see this amendment, which would allow English Nature to make by-laws, as a possible advantage, especially as regards dealing with some of the abuses under the access provisions of the Bill that we failed to address at an earlier stage. Again, I suspect that that may be a by-product, but I shall be interested to hear the Minister's response as to whether or not such by-laws could be used in cases where, for example, people disregard Schedule 2 and Chapter 2 in Part I of the Bill. That may be one way of dealing with those abuses, albeit in a rather round-about fashion. Can the Minister give us an assurance that such by-laws will not impinge on the rights of owners and occupiers of this land? May I also assume that those owners and occupiers will be consulted before any such by-laws are introduced?
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I, too, support the government amendment. I have reservations about Amendment No. 200 tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, but it does have one advantage in that it spells out a concern that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has just put into words. In subsection (5) of the amendment, the by-laws specifically,
Lord Whitty: My Lords, much reference has already been made to government Amendment No. 210. The other amendments in this group are consequential upon it. Our amendment has the same objective as the noble Baroness's Amendment No. 200. However, I inevitably consider our amendment to be slightly better in one substantive respect; namely, that it is more focused than Amendment No. 200.
Having considered our earlier discussions in Committee and the issue of damage by persons other than owners and occupiers, we have been persuaded that there may indeed be circumstances where activities, which may well fall outside the general offence in 28P(6) of intentionally or recklessly damaging an SSSI, may nevertheless need to be curtailed. This amendment would enable the agencies to tackle situations and control activities that may be
By-laws may well prove effective in many such circumstances. We believe that it would be appropriate to apply, with appropriate adaptations, the conservation agencies' existing by-law-making powers in relation to national nature reserves, so as to enable them to make by-laws for the protection of all, or part, of an SSSI. I refer back to the discussion that we had when we dealt with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and my noble friend Lady Mallalieu regarding the access position. Although by-laws may not interfere with the basic rights of owners or with the use of public rights of way, they may otherwise enable the agency to prevent or restrict movement within an SSSI. Therefore, by imposing restrictions via by-laws, some of the potential abuses to which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, referred in earlier debates would be tackled. I indicated at that stage that that was one of the ways in which such problems could be addressed later in the Bill.
One facility under the by-laws which may be particularly useful would be the power for the agencies to issue consents authorising activities that would otherwise be illegal under the by-laws. That would enable the agencies to permit sustainable levels of activity--for example, the diversification issues to which reference has been made--at particular times. However, we do not need a specific provision in this Bill because the powers of the agencies are included under Section 20(2) of the 1949 Act.
We also consider that the agencies should not seek to make by-laws without taking the views of those with an interest in the land. I hope that that reassures the noble Earl, Lord Peel, on the consultation aspect.
One difference between the amendment of the noble Baroness and mine is that my amendments contain only a limited power for by-laws to go wider than the SSSI itself in Section 20(2)(g) of the 1949 Act (which enables by-laws to restrict the shooting of birds where this is required to protect the SSSI). However, the noble Baroness's amendment goes further than that. We do not consider that appropriate, partly for the reasons adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Monro. We do not consider it appropriate to provide the agencies with unlimited powers to make by-laws on areas adjoining or adjacent to SSSIs. Although such a provision has been included with respect to by-laws on European sites, so far as we are aware no circumstances have arisen where the powers have been used. Where problems arise on an SSSIas a consequence of lawful activities on adjoining land, I anticipate that the agencies will need to negotiate with the owners and occupiers of the land rather than have powers to impose by-laws on land which is not part of the SSSI. If necessary, they could use the Section 15 powers of the Countryside Act 1968 to offer a management agreement, for example.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, in response to a question of my noble friend Lord Peel he said that the Government would consult with landowners and others. However, that does not appear to be included in the amendment. While the noble Lord considers that point I turn to the noble Baroness's amendment. It is difficult to try to tackle such a wide range of matters. However, I seek to clarify two points.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I emphasise again that my amendment does not seek to duplicate anything in the 1981 Act. Section 29 of that Act, which enables nature conservation orders to be made, is repealed by the Bill. My amendment does not seek to address a new area but rather a gap that arises through the repeal of Section 29. I hope that that answers the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, and to some extent the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, on rural police. The order-making powers would also have required enforcement.
I accept the noble Baroness's point about litter. I am not sure that rubbish falls within quite the same definition, but that is a small point. Subsection (2)(b)(i) refers to prohibiting or restricting,