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However, a government e-mail to the Countryside Alliance on this point noted that coastal land involves many other rights which may be affected by the route and associated margin. The Government therefore seem to be defending their new definition with two contradictory points. Either the wider definition of relevant interest has been rejected because the rights are not relevant to coastal land, as the Minister said in Committee, or it has been rejected because it will include too many people in the review process, as the Defra e-mail suggests. I would welcome some clarity on the Government’s thinking. Surely the point should be one of principle, not just numerical weight. If a right will be affected by the new route and margin, why is it being denied the role that was considered appropriate under the CROW Act? I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for again raising this matter, on which I have had discussions with outside groups between Committee and Report. We believe that some interests should have a further right to be consulted, to make full representations to the Secretary of State and to benefit from the objections procedure set out in my Amendment 124U, which we shall discuss soon.

We think that the coast raises different issues from those raised by the open country under the CROW Act. There are different land types, and interests at the coast must be considered. Land mapped as access land under CROW included a number of grouse moors that made shooting interests particularly pertinent to the legislation, while rights of common were particularly important, as areas of registered common land were mapped. These were two specific interests that could easily be identified as being particularly relevant to the mapping process.

However, with coastal land, many more interests, both access and landed interests, are potentially affected by Natural England’s proposals. We identified and set out in the Bill the people whom we believe it is appropriate to include within the definition of those with a relevant interest in affected land. That is set out in Clause 287(4) and in new Section 55J(2) under Clause 292: the owner of the land, a leaseholder and a person in lawful occupation of the land. Of course we expect all those interests to be taken into account when Natural England draws up proposals for the coastal route and margin. The Bill provides for extensive preliminary work and consultation before Natural England draws up proposals.

Natural England will seek to involve local authorities fully. Indeed, my Amendment 124FC, which, again, we will discuss later, will require Natural England to do that wherever the local authority is willing and able to undertake the work. The local authority will have

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an in-depth knowledge of local interests, such as shooting interests, and will be able to advise Natural England on the proper persons who should be consulted. Natural England has also said that it will draw up draft proposals, which will include information on any exclusions and restrictions that it considers necessary. It will advertise its proposals and ask for comments. That is set out in its draft scheme. That will provide the opportunity for anyone to make his views known and for them to be taken into account by Natural England.

There are also safeguards for those with other interests, should they feel that Natural England has not taken into account their views adequately. They can make representations, which Natural England must summarise. Natural England must then send the summary with its comments to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must consider that information in reaching his determination on any proposal in Natural England’s coastal access report. Of course, he will take particular note of representations made by anyone with the sort of important and valuable interests that I know lie behind the noble Lord’s concern and are the reason why he is moving the amendment.

As a final safeguard, those with relevant interests as defined by Section 45 of the CROW Act will have the same rights as they do for open country to apply for restrictions and exclusions of access for land management reasons. That can include, for example, management for shooting or the holding of commercial events. They can apply to exclude access from the land for either a short or a longer period, subject to review every five years. Alternatively, they can apply to restrict access, for instance by preventing people from picnicking on the land or asking them to keep to a particular route. Natural England must issue a restriction or exclusion direction if it is necessary and access cannot be suitably managed in any other way. If the application is turned down or a direction proposed by Natural England is not in accordance with the terms of the application, there is a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate under Section 30 of CROW.

The relevant authority guidance issued by Natural England sets out how it will determine applications from land managers on open access land. Natural England will be looking to issue further guidance on any land management restrictions specifically relevant to coastal land.

In essence, we have to get the balance right. Clearly, given the amendment that I shall move later, which the noble Lord supports, we have listened carefully on the issue of landowner and other interests having the right of review. We think that we have drawn the line about right. We think that the other mechanisms in the Bill and under CROW will be sufficient to allow people who have shooting rights, for instance, to make their views known and to have them properly taken into account. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that I have listened carefully to the representations made. I understand them, but I think that we have the balance right.

4.45 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. This useful debate has given

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him the opportunity to explain the Government’s position and I hope that it has reassured people, not only those with landowner’s rights, but also those with other rights in the land, that the way in which the legislation has been constructed takes account of their interests in that land. We will come on to debate the substantial Amendment 124U, to which I have added my name and which we are trailing by these amendments, but, given the Minister’s reassurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 124FZB withdrawn.

Clause 288 : The coastal access scheme

Amendment 124FA

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

124FA: Clause 288, page 175, line 21, at end insert—

“(4A) A scheme approved under this section (and any revised scheme) must set out the approach Natural England will take when deciding, for the purposes of section 55A(2B) of the 1949 Act, whether it would be appropriate for an access authority to carry out any preliminary activity (within the meaning of section 55A(2A) of that Act).”

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 124FC. These amendments concern the role of local authorities in our vision to improve access to the English coast. Noble Lords will appreciate the extensive debate that we had about these issues in Committee; we tabled these two amendments following the discussions about the importance of involving local authorities in developing the proposals for coastal access in their areas that will be contained in Natural England’s report. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said during those discussions, the Government’s intention has always been to involve local authorities, which we see as extremely important partners in the coastal access project. Where they are willing to act, they will be fully involved in the implementation of the proposals and establishment of the route itself.

Amendment 124FA requires Natural England to set out in its scheme, and any revised scheme, under Clause 288 the approach that it will take when deciding whether it would be appropriate for an access authority to carry out any preliminary activity. Amendment 124FC inserts into Clause 292 a definition of “preliminary activity”, which is any activity that Natural England considers will facilitate the preparation of a report under Section 51 of the 1949 Act pursuant to the coastal access duty. The sort of activities that we have in mind are advising Natural England on the best line for the route, potential alternative routes and any necessary infrastructure and identifying those with a relevant interest who will potentially be affected by the proposals. The amendment requires Natural England to consider whether it would be appropriate for the access authority, which is defined in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 as the local highway authority or the national park authority in a national park, to carry out any preliminary activity and, if so, to take all reasonable steps to enter into an agreement with the access authority. It also gives access authorities powers to enter into such agreements in relation to their area.

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These amendments formalise the approach that the Government intend should be taken and that Natural England has indicated in its scheme that it will take. I believe that they will provide the assurances that noble Lords have sought in previous debates. They will ensure that local authorities, where they are willing to act, can have a key role in the implementation of the coastal access duty. I know that that has been of considerable concern to noble Lords opposite and therefore it is with some confidence that I beg to move.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I am grateful that the Minister listened to, considered and accepted our concerns and I thank him for tabling these amendments. I hope that access authorities—in most cases they are local authorities—will get involved in the preliminary activity; indeed, the Minister has confirmed that that is the case. They have the potential to ensure that local issues are properly accounted for, the appropriate infrastructure is available and local residents are properly engaged. I welcome these amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord’s confidence is not misplaced. We, too, welcome the amendments. Arguments in favour of including local authorities are entirely obvious to these Benches. My noble friend Lord Greaves tells me that they arose originally from representations by my noble friend Lord Tyler and his compatriots the honourable Members for St Ives and for Falmouth and Camborne. Maybe “compatriots” is the right word in the case of Cornwall, which regards itself as separate. The role of local authorities is something that we have not yet quite pinned down in other parts of the Bill, but I welcome it here.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful for the response of both noble Lords and pay tribute to our past debates. There were one or two occasions when the debates were more protracted than they needed to be to make a point to a listening Government. We were happy to listen.

Amendment 124FA agreed.

Amendment 124FAA

Moved by Earl Cathcart

124FAA: Clause 288, page 175, line 27, leave out subsection (7)

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, in Committee the Minister helpfully raised the question of whether publishing the scheme on the internet was sufficient. I have tabled this probing amendment to give him another opportunity to expand his thoughts. I had hoped to table this probing amendment in relation to the report, rather than the scheme, but the extensive government amendments that we will discuss—and, I hope, accept—later would have pre-empted it.

I remain concerned that the extensive consultation and representation requirements in the Bill, which will do so much to ensure that the route is appropriate for the local situation, will miss the opportunity to hear from those who have a great deal to add to the process, purely because of their ignorance that the whole scheme is taking place at all. Obviously, there is a limit to what Natural England can do to make sure that people who should be informed are informed. The Minister mentioned

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the incomplete nature of the Land Registry, for example. Local councils, especially parish councils, probably know exactly who owns, or has an interest in, the land in their area.

There is also a perfectly effective precedent in the system, which is used when a planning decision is to be made. Notices are attached to lamp posts and those who will be affected and their neighbours are leafleted or written to, and so on. I hope the Minister can reassure us that this is the model that Natural England will be expected to follow. I also hope that Natural England will inform the parish council of over whose area the path will go. Parish councils will be able not only to make a valuable contribution as to the exact route through their areas but to help with liaison with landowners, especially where there is a gap in the registry.

It seems that the onus should be on Natural England or its agents to notify all—and I underline all—relevant parties interested in the routes, rather than for the onus to be on the landowners to find out what is being proposed for their land. I will be interested to hear how the Minister proposes to achieve this. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for bringing this matter back. I understand that, in moving an amendment that relates to the scheme, he is particularly exercised about the reports.

I fully accept the intent behind the noble Earl’s amendments: to ensure that Natural England does everything that it can and that is reasonable to ensure that those with an interest who need the information get it. I agree that it is important that Natural England makes this information available. The provision in the Bill, which we agreed in Committee, requires Natural England to make information about the scheme available as soon as is reasonably practical and in a manner that it considers appropriate. We have not prescribed the formats in which it must publish the information, as that would run the risk of omitting formats that may be particularly relevant locally or that may become available in the future.

We have all acknowledged that we do not legislate on these matters very frequently, so it is important that the legislation is future-proofed as far as possible, but I fully accept that how information is made available and how landowners, occupiers and others with an interest in the proposals are engaged in the consultation process is of great importance. The availability to them of key documents, including information on the scheme and Natural England’s reports, will be of considerable relevance. I also take the noble Earl’s point about parish councils and the example of planning notices. Those are very important and good points to make, and I will ensure that Natural England understands that as well.

We debated the internet. The concern is that information would be posted only on the internet and that those who were not aware that it was going to be posted or who did not use the internet would have great difficulty in finding it. I very much agree with that point of view. The intention is not simply to post information about the scheme on the internet, although we expect the net to be used extensively. On the other hand, we want to bear in mind the environmental and

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financial costs of producing lots of hard copies. We want to get the balance right. The aim is to minimise the number of printed copies, but we will look to see whether there are other means by which key documents can be made available. I understand that public libraries have been used to make available other similar pieces of work and reports.

In conclusion, the noble Earl’s point is well made. We want Natural England to do everything that it can to ensure that relevant information is made available, and we accept that, while the internet is an important medium in which to do so, it should not be the only medium. I also accept the need to ensure that parish councils are thought about. That is also an issue for local authorities. We have just had a debate on the role of local authorities, which we all agree want to play an important part and work in conjunction with Natural England in preparing plans for coastal access. We are, of course, talking about top-tier local authorities, but non-metropolitan district councils in two-tier local government have an important role to play, as do parish councils. I fully accept that. That should also apply to Natural England in the information that it provides.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, I thank the Minister for reassuring the House that Natural England will do everything in its power, not just through the internet but through all other methods, to try to ensure that those who should know what is happening do know. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 124FAA withdrawn.

Clause 291 : River estuaries

Amendment 124FB

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

124FB: Clause 291, page 176, line 37, leave out from beginning to “Natural” in line 38 and insert “When exercising any power conferred by subsection (2) or (3),”

5 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, Amendment 124FB is grouped with Amendment 124FBA. Clause 291 gives Natural England the flexibility to propose the establishment of the coastal route up estuaries to the first public foot crossing or to a point between the mouth of the river and that first crossing point. Estuaries throw up particular challenges with regard to this legislation. They are very variable in extent; they are important for wildlife; and they may be more developed than the open coast. We believe that it is important that Natural England should have the flexibility to decide on the approach to estuaries on a case-by-case basis.

As we said in Committee, the Bill requires Natural England, in deciding whether to make a recommendation to stop the route at any point between the mouth of the river and the first public foot crossing, to have regard to the general considerations set out in Clause 287 and also to a number of additional matters set out in Clause 291(4). These matters include, among others, the nature of the land, the topography of the shoreline and the width of the river upstream to the first public

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foot crossing. The criteria set out in this clause were tailored to be applied in the specific case where Natural England might propose that the coastal route should go up to a point between the mouth of the estuary and the first public foot crossing.

Concerns were raised in Committee. In particular, the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Taylor, expressed concerns about the extent of Natural England’s flexibility to include estuaries in the coastal margin. Amendment 124FB will require Natural England to have regard to the matters that I mentioned previously—among others the nature of the land, the topography of the shoreline and the width of the river upstream to the first public foot crossing—in making any decision to exercise its functions as if reference in the coastal access provisions to the sea included the relevant upstream waters of a river. This means that in relation to decisions to propose the route up to the public foot crossing, and to some point between that crossing point and the mouth of the river, it will be required to have regard to these matters.

I believe that Amendment 124FB will meet the web of complex concerns raised by noble Lords in Committee. The estuaries issue is complex because of the wide variety of estuaries that, as we all know, need to be considered. I hope the House will accept that the Government have listened to concerns about the provisions for estuaries and that government Amendment 124FB will command the support of the House in resolving some of the issues raised. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we have Amendment 124FBA in this group. I think that the Minister would have found that the House would have agreed to the amendment to which he has just spoken even if he had not spoken to it. We certainly support it. Our amendment is rather smaller even though it has more words. Clause 291(4) sets out a number of matters to which Natural England must have regard. Although in some cases they are expressed in quite highfalutin terms, they actually address practical matters that would make a route workable. My noble friend’s Amendment 124FBA is a practical and realistic amendment which says that Natural England should also have regard to,

He has looked at the issues that will concern walkers, such as what is convenient to them and what will make the route one of which they can take advantage.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I again thank the Minister for responding to our concerns about the original drafting of the Bill and am glad to support his amendment. However, I have some sympathy with the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and the contribution made in speaking to it by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. We raised our concerns early in these proceedings that the infrastructure necessary for the full enjoyment of the route should not be ignored. We hope very much that the role of access authorities in the drawing up of the route will address the need for facilities and ways in which to rejoin existing rights of way.

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their acceptance of the government amendment. It may therefore seem a little churlish of me that I am not too happy about the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is the result of a distillation of representations made in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and others, about this important consideration. I do not decry the importance of the issue. The amendment would add consideration of onward transport links to the matters that Natural England must take into account in reaching decisions on the extent of access along estuaries. The amendment mentions,

to rejoin the route on the other side of the estuary in cases where it is broken. That is an eminently sensible concept. Where practicable, however, Natural England will link up with routes leading to and from the coast when considering the coastal route itself. It would scarcely fulfil the objective of the legislation—access to the coast—if it did not take this very much into account. Of course it has to have regard to questions such as public transport links and car parking facilities. Having created the route, it is important to ensure that it is accessible to users both along the coast itself and how it should continue when crossing estuaries. Access should be by various means to attract as wide a variety of users as possible.

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