I know that many authorities have outstanding claims and it would be helpful if the Minister had an idea of the total number of such claims which local authorities are having to cope with. I believe that in Warwickshire there are more than 100. As the amendment does not apply to the modification already lodged with local authorities for investigation and registration, I invite the Minister to reflect on this question as I may well want to expand on it when we come to later stages of the Bill. It is a case of trying to make sure that we move the proposals forward in the Bill, and I again put on the record that I am pleased to welcome it. A lot of good work has taken place but the questions of costs and of a time limit are still undefined. I beg to move.

6.45 pm

Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, I support Amendment 19 concerning the time limit. We live in a very crowded island and I believe that England is the fifth most densely populated country in the world. There is huge competition for land use across a wide spectrum of activities, and the planning system is a very obvious example of where the use of land is

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democratically decided upon. It seems to me that the simplest way to avoid disputes is to have certainty and a clear decision-making process that adjudicates clearly and fairly with clear time limits so that everyone knows where they stand as soon as possible.

The whole point about a Section 31 deposit of a map and statement by a farmer is to create certainty so that the householder, the farmer or the landowner and the public know what is permissible and what is not. With a Section 31 deposit there is usually a conversation between the farmer and the highway authority. The local highway authority agrees the deposit of the maps, so the farmer and the highway authority are in agreement in saying, “This is the situation regarding rights of way on this land”. That clarity is really important to all concerned, including the general public.

A Section 31 deposit is also really important to landowners, among whom I include myself and the son of the noble Lord, Lord Plumb. I welcome most people on to my land. There are people who walk all over it, and kids cycle across the fields and go into the woods. In fact, I get into trouble because they tend to cycle around badger setts, which brings somebody in authority down on my head for allowing that to happen. I am very happy to allow local people to use the land. Sometimes I have to interfere and say, “Thou shall not do this or that”, but on the whole I am very relaxed about it. I am happy to do that provided they are not creating a statutory right—that is, getting rights that are going to infringe any future use of that land because they are establishing rights of way. That is a really important factor. If people can come along and contest a Section 31 deposit of a map and statement several years afterwards, that is completely wrong, and I think that the general public and the walking public will suffer as a result. It may be that a one-year time limit before anyone can object is too short. I would probably have gone for two or maybe even three years. However, it is important that we have some time limit in this whole area.

The other amendment in this group to which I want to refer is Amendment 22. I had slight sympathy for Amendment 20, concerning costs being made against spurious claims, but it is almost impossible for an applicant to know in advance whether their claim is spurious. Therefore, the way to deal with it is to ensure that the proposed statements are true. That is a very good idea. I do not believe that the minor cost involved is a good reason to bypass this reasonable check on a process. The statement needs to be treated as though it has been made in a court of law, even if in reality it has been garnered around a kitchen table in a very relaxed atmosphere with, quite likely, the witness being led in a very unbarrister-like manner by whichever side happens to be taking the statement. It could be being taken on behalf of the Ramblers or on behalf of the landowner, but having to sign a statement of truth is sufficient to ensure that it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That would be a very good thing.

Lord Grantchester: My Lords, the proposals in the Bill will make great progress on many aspects and procedures covering rights of way legislation. We welcome this further debate on many aspects that the stakeholder working group raised. While we have addressed and

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debated some of them, there is as yet no agreement and it may be a long way off. However, we have welcomed the debate and look forward to further progress after these provisions have been enacted.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, my noble friend’s Amendments 19 to 22 seek to introduce measures that reflect the valid concerns of landowners and farmers about the impact that claims for rights of way can have on their businesses, and about the costs of dealing with such claims during due legal process.

I am aware that there are concerns about the potential effect on some landowners of applications to record a right of way, particularly about multiple applications in an area or even on a single property. An application fee has been suggested as a solution to this issue. However, the introduction of such a fee or charge would be highly contentious. Ministers specifically asked the rights of way stakeholder working group to look at the impact of applications to record a public right of way, particularly at multiple applications, and what measures, including a fee or charge for an application, might be introduced to mitigate this perceived problem. The group agreed to report back to Ministers in the following terms:

“The problem of multiple applications could be an acute one in some cases but it is not widespread and there is little prospect of coming up with a solution, particularly on application charges, on which the full range of stakeholders could agree”.

However, the group’s view was that measures already agreed as part of the reforms package will in any case alleviate most of the problems. The first measure is to raise the threshold for applications. A local authority would be able to reject applications that did not meet a basic evidential test, effectively eliminating spurious or speculative applications. We are proposing to apply this retrospectively, as agreed by the stakeholder working group, by means of the transitional regulations provided for in Clause 27(7), so it would apply to any existing applications that have not yet resulted in an order.

The second enables newly discovered rights of way to be diverted and/or reduced in width before being recorded. This would be by agreement between the local authority and the landowner, with no scope for the agreement to be thwarted by objections. It is possible that this could also be applied retrospectively through the transitional regulations, thus reducing the overall administrative and cost burden of the procedures for recording rights of way.

Taking each of the proposals in my noble friend’s amendment in turn, the proposition to introduce a time limit on applications for an order to modify the definitive map is not as straightforward as it may appear. While it is possible to envisage such a measure for applications that are based solely on evidence of recent use, most rights of way applications are concerned with recording a right of way for which there will be both user evidence and historical documentary evidence, which may not come to light until many years after a landowner makes a statutory declaration under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980.

Lord Deben (Con): Could my noble friend explain why it is reasonable for documentary evidence, unaccompanied by usage evidence, to come into discussion many years after an application has been made? This

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is a matter of history and should remain so. It is surely not an acceptable argument against my noble friend’s amendment.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I said that there will be both user evidence and historical documentary evidence. Let me continue and try to go some way towards satisfying my noble friend. The time limit on the claiming of town and village greens introduced by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 is often cited as a precedent. However, this fails to recognise that the legislative framework relating to public rights of way is different from that of town and village greens. Most notably, a green is not created until it has been registered as such whereas public rights of way already exist in law, regardless of whether they are recorded on the definitive map. The recording process is simply ascertaining something that already exists. Rights of way can come into being though a variety of mechanisms, not just a qualifying period of use. In addition, rights of way can be diverted or extinguished to accommodate development whereas town and village greens cannot.

The stakeholder working group discussed the question of a time limit on applications but has not yet been able to reach consensus on it, despite a willingness to try. However, the group suggested that developments on Section 31(6) deposits should be monitored, following recent amendment to the provisions by the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, to evaluate the scale of the problem over time. We intend to continue to do this in collaboration with the group.

The proposed amendment to Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 appears to be linked to the proposal to introduce a time limit for applications. However, the amendment appears to provide that the presumed or deemed dedication of a public right of way on the basis of 20 years’ use cannot have taken place unless someone has made a valid application to add the right of way to the definitive map.

I am not entirely clear if that consequence is intended but, if it is, it would prevent the local authority from recording the right of way on the basis of evidence that it has discovered itself. It would also no longer be possible to establish the public right of way through a court declaration. If this were to be the case, there is an argument that it would create an incentive for users of rights of way to make more applications to ensure that in these cases the presumed dedication had taken place.

Introducing a fee for an application for an order to modify the definitive map would be at odds with the whole basis of the legislative framework that has been in place since the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, under which local authorities are charged with recording all the public rights of way within their areas and asserting and protecting the public’s right to use them. The fundamental problem with this proposal is therefore that, in the main, applications are made not for the benefit of the individual applicant but in the public interest. In addition, it is worth affirming that local authorities are already funded for this statutory duty through the revenue support grant. Even if there were no formal application process,

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if someone provided a local authority with evidence of the existence of a public right of way, the authority would still be statutorily obliged to consider whether to make an order.

The amendment seems to recognise this fundamental flaw in the proposals and seeks to remedy it by seeking to charge a fee even where evidence is submitted without a formal application. This seems unworkable, though, as I do not see how a fee can be charged when the person submitting the evidence is not making a formal application and receives nothing tangible as a result of their actions.

The final proposal seeks to amend the existing form of application for an order to modify the definitive map, which is set out in regulations, by requiring the submission with the application of a statement of truth. There is a case for strengthening the quality of user evidence to accompany applications for an order to modify the definitive map, but we do not believe that further regulation is needed to achieve this. We intend to bring about improvements in the quality of user evidence but through non-statutory means, as part of the review of existing guidance that will be required to implement the reforms package. In addition, we will be looking at extending the new preliminary assessment of applications to cover the quality of user evidence as well as documentary evidence. Moreover, it is already possible for rights of way inspectors to require evidence to be given under oath at inquiries.

Not only do the amendments proposed here go considerably beyond the finely balanced package of reforms agreed by the group but the proposed amendments on charges for applications to modify the definitive map, and on time limits for such applications, are highly contentious. They risk jeopardising the hard-won stakeholder consensus behind the proposed package of rights of way reforms.

My noble friend Lady Byford asked for specific information about costs. I am afraid that they are not collated centrally. I hope that she will understand that.

My noble friend Lord Deben asked why claims should be made many years later. Highway law is predicated on the fundamental principle, “Once a highway, always a highway”. However, the 2026 cut-off date that we are working towards, and which is a key element of the stakeholder working group package, will eventually close off the possibility of recording a right of way on the basis of historical evidence. On the basis of everything that I have said, I hope that I have persuaded my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.

7 pm

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank my noble friends for their contributions to this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for his very practical look at the amendments that I tabled, and my noble friend Lord Deben for challenging the Minister on the issue of it surely not being right that it might take years. I shall read very carefully what the Minister has said because I value his experience and his responses, but I am not really a happy bunny, if I may put it that way. I should like to clarify again that these were considered by the working group. They were not agreed by the working

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group and I have not suggested that they were, but the issue has been raised and the discussions are ongoing. Even those within the working group who did not feel inclined to support them understood that there was an issue that needed to be debated.

I am just hopeful that between now and Report we may be able to get further enlightenment on some of the issues that I have raised. Certainly the whole question of cost, not only to the individual farmer but to the local authorities, is something that we need to keep at the back of our minds because local authorities are clearly stretched with trying to carry out their statutory regulations and responsibilities on so many different issues.

While I accept much of what the Minister has said, I need to read it very carefully. I am happy to withdraw my amendments but I think I shall be returning to it. At this stage, though, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 19 withdrawn.

Amendments 20 to 22 not moved.

Schedule 7 agreed.

Clause 28: Erection of public statues (London): removal of consent requirement

Amendment 23

Moved by The Earl of Clancarty

23: Clause 28, leave out Clause 28 and insert the following new Clause—

“Erection of public statues (London)

In section 5 of the Public Statues (Metropolis) Act 1854, for “commissioners” substitute “Mayor of London”.”

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): My Lords, I have tabled this amendment because the responsibility that the Government have had for 160 years in giving consent for the erection of public statues in London should not pass away unremarked. Also, perhaps more importantly, there has to be a concern about where the responsibility for all public sculpture in London, not just public statues, should ultimately live. The area of London in question is Greater London but excludes the City of London and Inner and Middle Temples, as the very helpful notes to the Bill indicate.

There is a case for handing over ultimate responsibility for all public sculpture, not just statues and not just new sculpture, to the GLA. The timing of this amendment is interesting in the light of the think tank Centre for London’s call for greater devolution for the GLA, including, I understand, the ownership of public land. There is also a case for treating all public sculpture equally, at least administratively, which, with the change that the Government are making here, we are part-way towards doing.

I say this because I believe it is the specific environment, the place itself, that should be the starting point and of paramount concern. If the environment demands that there should be a sculpture sited in that place, the question should be asked: what kind of sculpture should it be? Should it be a memorialising sculpture or

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something else? However, we tend instinctively to do things the other way round. There is a national clamour to memorialise such and such a person, and then sometimes an unholy compromise arises in terms of the use of public space.

My first question to the Minister is why the Government are retaining the 1854 Act at all if they are removing the key responsibility for consent for public statues. Yes, I believe that these decisions should be taken with the locality permanently in mind, but I am not at all convinced that the ultimate responsibility for decision-making for new public sculpture in London should reside with the local authorities. Public sculpture generally should be under the stewardship—I stress, the stewardship—of London. New public sculpture in London is foremost a city-wide issue, of primary concern to London and Londoners.

With regard to my amendment, which is really a first stage in my train of thought on the subject, I do not for one moment believe that any current mayor should be making personal decisions about these things. I would have strongly disagreed with any suggestion that Generals Havelock and Napier ought to be removed from Trafalgar Square. Public sculpture should be removed or relocated only under exceptional planning considerations because to do otherwise, for aesthetic reasons or reasons of political correctness, is to excise history and that is wrong.

However, considering the future, I would be very happy—I think that others would agree—if there were a 20-year moratorium put on all new sculptures memorialising the military, the royals and politicians. Our culture is considerably wider than that. Last week, a fellow Peer suggested to me that there should be an independent decision-making body of experts. There is merit in that; in Berlin, for example, I understand that there is a citywide system of open competition for all new sculpture under the auspices of Berlin’s association of visual artists. Comparisons can be made here with the manner in which the very successful fourth plinth project is administered, whereby decision-making is down to an independent group of judges yet the project itself is under the stewardship of the mayor.

My second question is: might the Minister promise to find out whether, over the years, there has not developed a substantial archive reflecting the Government’s involvement with public statues in London? Westminster City Council, for example, confirms in its guidance on public statues and monuments that it currently submits detailed plans and drawings to the Government. Has an archive built up and is it publicly accessible? If so, as it would be of great interest to the public and historians, what do they plan to do with it?

We often take public sculpture in London for granted but when people from this country or from abroad visit London for the first time, the very first things they want to see include Nelson’s column or the Shaftesbury memorial fountain at Piccadilly Circus. Public sculpture is part of the face of London and says important things about our history and cultural identity. It is perhaps too important to be left only to

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local planning departments and it is fitting that the GLA should take more of a role in this area. I beg to move.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for raising this issue. He makes a good case for this matter to be given more consideration. We are in debt to previous generations—he ended on this—for the substantial collection of public statues that there is in London. According to Westminster City Council’s guide to its process for obtaining permission for statues, they date from the Charles I statue of 1633. I had a look at that the other day and it is in very good nick. We are still seeing modern examples of material being put up and, as the noble Earl says, there are huge impacts on the way in which we view our city, on tourism and in other aspects, so it is important.

Behind the individual questions that the noble Earl has posed for the Government I think there is a real worry about their attempts to deregulate here. While the Government are clearly achieving something by taking responsibility away from the Secretary of State—although that is a deregulatory measure on a Minister and not on business—I am not sure whether they are taking the right step. As the noble Earl mentioned, there is a gap regarding who has responsibilities in this area. Given her previous experience, our Deputy Chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, might be in a better position to answer some of the questions about whether English Heritage has a role to play in this. I am sure that she will be too discreet to mention anything at this stage, and certainly not from the chair. However, I am sure that she will have some ideas about that. I am also sure that the Arts Council, in its wisdom and knowledge of these matters, will have things that might be brought to bear.

Whatever those ideas are, it is wrong for any individual politician to take responsibility for this area. That point was well made. I am not entirely clear whether substituting the GLA for the City of Westminster would solve that problem, because we are still talking about political control, but it raises the question: “Why just Westminster?”. Why would we not have wider consideration about where statues might be placed in London as a whole? My feeling is that statues are too important to be deregulated simply by the measure proposed by the Bill. I am not sure what the right solution is but I wonder whether the Minister might think about having a little more discussion about this.

The reflection I have, which I think is shared by the noble Earl whose amendment this is, is that there will be a bit of a gap here. It is not just a planning issue. The issues around putting up any memorialising form, whether it is a physical representation of somebody or an object whose presence is intangible, require aesthetic and other considerations rather than simply being about planning. I am not sure whether the planning system is quite the right place for this to be left. If there is therefore a gap, how would we find a way around it? It may be by having a statutory committee

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of some kind or simply by inviting some other body to take on a responsibility, which might be advisory. Whatever it is, I share the noble Earl’s concern about this issue.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the purpose of Clause 28 is to remove the current requirement on persons seeking to erect statues in public places in Greater London, excluding the City of London and the Inner and Middle Temples, to obtain consent from the Secretary of State before doing do. Controls to prevent the unsightly proliferation of statues in Greater London are already provided for by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This requires that planning permission be obtained from the relevant local planning authority prior to the erection of a statue in a public place in Greater London or the remainder of the country. I am not sure that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, but I am sure we can have a useful discussion about it. Given that the aim of this change in Clause 28 is to streamline the current double-handling of applications to erect statues, I cannot really see a benefit in removing the requirement to seek the consent of the Secretary of State only to replace it with a requirement to seek the consent of the Mayor of London.

The mayor plays a key role in the planning for London’s continued success. His London Plan provides the economic, environmental, transport and social framework for development in the region to 2031. He ensures that local plans fit with the London Plan, works with boroughs to develop planning frameworks for major areas of brownfield land and considers planning proposals of strategic importance. In this way, he already has input to the preparation of policies relating to public statues, such as those produced by the City of Westminster. The noble Earl asked why keep the 1854 Act at all? It is worth saying that it provides a power for the Secretary of State to repair and restore, for example, any public statue. I might be so bold as to suggest we would all find that an important power to retain. He also asked whether there are archives. I do not believe there are such archives—I am happy to have a rootle around but I am pretty sure there are no centrally held archives. I have little more to add. I hope I have said enough to persuade him to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Clancarty: I thank the Minister very much for that reply. I think it is useful to open discussion on this issue. I am slightly surprised that after 160 years there would not be some kind of substantial file. As I said, Westminster had to submit quite detailed plans and drawings and that has been going on for a long time. Could the Minister promise to look very carefully to see if there is anything there that would be useful? Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 23 withdrawn.

Clause 28 agreed.

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Amendment 24

Moved by Lord Bradshaw

24: After Clause 28, insert the following new Clause—

“Mechanically propelled vehicles on unsealed roads: removal of burdens

(1) Within one year of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report containing an assessment of the burdens and costs caused by the use of mechanically propelled vehicles on unsealed rights of way to—

(a) the users of such rights of way,

(b) landowners and tenants, and

(c) other interested parties, including highway authorities, Natural England, National Park Authorities, local authorities, parish councils and other community organisations.

(2) A report under subsection (1) shall include—

(a) proposals to alleviate such burdens and costs, and

(b) an assessment as to whether legislation should continue to permit mechanically propelled vehicles to use unsealed rights of way.

(3) The Secretary of State may through regulations implement any proposals contained in the report under subsection (1).

(4) Regulations made under subsection (3) shall be made by statutory instrument.

(5) A statutory instrument under subsection (4) shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament.

(6) The Secretary of State shall not issue a report under subsection (1) until he has consulted with such interested parties as he thinks fit.”

Lord Bradshaw (LD): My Lords, I declare my interest as the president of the Friends of the Ridgeway and as a member of GLEAM, the group which protects green lanes, or tries to. In proposing this amendment, I submit that the opportunity should be seized to resolve the problem of motor vehicle use of unsurfaced highways, with a clear focus and timeframe for the way forward, and to give a clear signal that the Government intend to take action. The Government’s current plan is to set up another stakeholder working group in the hope that it will achieve consensus on motor vehicle use of unsealed highways. I submit that it will not reach consensus because the parties involved have diametrically opposed views. There is no prospect of compromise between those who ride noisy motorbikes and drive specially equipped four-wheel drive motor vehicles and those who value on the other hand the peace and quiet of the countryside, such as walkers, horse riders, cyclists and birdwatchers. There is also a real safety issue involved.

7.15 pm

I believe that the Government’s intention is to set up a new stakeholder working group, but I am afraid that it is out of the remit of the present stakeholder group. It was deliberately excluded from the remit because nobody could see any prospect of agreement and they did not want to stop the group agreeing other things. When it touched on the issue in relation to simplifying the processes involved in getting rights of way on the definitive map, the current stakeholder group consciously set the problem aside. It did so

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because it was clear that there was not a consensus. It is for this reason that the current group is not a credible model for the way forward.

The remit for the current stakeholder working group was to,

“work together with the aim of reaching consensus on a balanced package of strategic reforms in law and procedure that in the Group’s view would bring real benefit to the various interests potentially affected by the claimed existence of”,

historic public rights of way.

At its meeting in February 2009, the question arose of tackling rights on unsealed highways on the list of streets, referred to in the following extract from the working group’s minutes as “other routes with public access”. The minutes record that:

“A suggestion was made that a process be instigated to review”,

these routes,

“with a view to identifying those that are clearly not vehicular and for these to be considered for inclusion on the definitive map [of rights of way]. Another suggestion made was for a default status to be afforded to”,

the bridleways,

“subject to higher rights being confirmed. This suggestion was criticised on the grounds that it would be reinventing”,

roads used as public paths which were classified by the CROW Act as restricted byways.

In September 2009, it is recorded that,

“several Group members felt strongly that to allow negotiation over status would be against the public interest”

.

These reservations were, we believe, those of the members of the stakeholder working group representing the interests of motor vehicle owners. In the light of conflicting views and no likelihood of agreement, no further work was done on this problem. No work was done, or could have been done, on the question of byways open to all traffic—the other class of unsealed highway used by motor vehicles—as these were well outside the terms of reference of the group. The current stakeholder working group was deliberately setting aside the highly contentious issue of use of motor vehicles on unsealed roads. This amendment seeks to bring this about.

It took the current stakeholder working group five years to come forward with proposals on much less contentious issues than motor vehicles using green lanes. We need action, not years more of delay. All the stakeholders with an interest in the use of unsealed ways by motor vehicles clearly must be consulted and the Government are already committed anyway to full public consultation. But leaving the initiative for developing proposals for consultation in the hands of a stakeholder group that will not be able to agree, we suspect, even on terms of reference will delay rather than assist moving forward towards meaningful consultation and a solution.

It is essential that the Government set the agenda, lead on the issue and are seen to be leading, as they did when they secured protection from motor vehicle use on footpaths and bridleways under the NERC Act 2006. The Deregulation Bill seeks to reduce burdens resulting from legislation for business or other organisations, or for individuals. The amendment identifies an area of legislation not currently covered by the Bill but where there are heavy burdens on individuals,

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communities, local government and other public agencies. Missing is legislation that permits and seeks to regulate the use of unsealed highways by motor vehicles.

The amendment that we are proposing would place a requirement on the Secretary State to examine the costs and burdens that flow from the current legislation, to propose remedies and to lay a report and recommendations before Parliament within one year of the passing of the Bill. There is nothing in the amendment that would oppose the Government or interfere with any of the clauses already in the Bill, including those that result from the work by the present stakeholder working group, or those on the rights that Defra seeks to protect. The only thing the amendment would do is require the Government to consider the regulatory burdens of the existing legislation in this area, and to bring forward proposals on a definite timescale.

The amendment has all-party support, as the Committee will no doubt hear. The burdens and costs that the amendment seeks the Secretary of State to identify and review flow from Section 67 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, Parts 1 and 2 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980. The legislation needs review, not just because of the heavy burdens that it places on individuals and the various agencies involved in administering it, but because it permits the use and destruction of unsealed highways by 4x4 motor vehicles and motorbikes.

These unsealed highways are the country’s green lanes. There are burdens and costs for individuals and communities affected by the use of unsealed highways and byways by motor vehicles. We are seeking to use the current highway and rights of way legislation as a means of redress. The public organisations bearing the burden of the legislation on motor vehicle use of unsealed highways are the highways authorities, the national parks, Natural England, which is responsible for the areas of outstanding natural beauty and national trails, the Planning Inspectorate and the courts.

The highways authorities are obliged by law to repair all unsealed highways damaged by motor vehicles. They cannot avoid this cost, as it is a statutory duty under Section 54 of the Highways Act 1980. The cost of repairing a badly damaged green lane can be up to £75,000 per mile. If the lane is repaired without a permanent traffic regulation order being applied to it, it is again vulnerable to repeated challenge. The highways authorities have a process to determine all applications claiming unsealed highways as byways open to all traffic. This is a legal duty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There are objections to over 40% of these applications, which lead to public inquiries and burdens for the Planning Inspectorate, the highways authorities, individuals and community organisations.

Where the decisions of the highway authorities or the Planning Inspectorate on applications are challenged, these are burdens for the courts, reaching as high as the Supreme Court. The highway authorities bear the costs and burdens involved in trying to use traffic regulation orders to restrict or exclude motor vehicles from using unsealed highways. The costs and procedures

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involved in making these orders are significant. Where they are used to restrict motor vehicle use on unsurfaced highways, the orders are invariably challenged in the courts by motor vehicle organisations. If a legal challenge succeeds, the cost to the highway authority can be up to £50,000 or more. Highway authorities are naturally very reluctant to take that risk. That is why we see few traffic regulation orders being made to control motor vehicle use of any part of the unsealed highway network.

There is also no legal redress other than judicial review against a highway authority which refuses to consider implementing a traffic regulation order. This is unfair on the individual users to whom I have referred and the small communities bearing the brunt of motor vehicle use on unsealed highways. The national parks are also bearing heavy burdens. The current legislation is handicapping all the national parks authorities in their effort to protect their unsealed highways. It is also impeding them in carrying out their statutory duty to protect the environment of the national parks.

In the Peak District National Park alone, there are 225 green lanes open to use by motor vehicles. The Peak District National Park Authority spent £100,000 on managing motor vehicle use on its green lanes in the two years from 2012 to 2014. During that period, it was able to secure traffic regulation orders on just two unsealed highways out of a list of nearly 40, giving serious cause for concern.

The only reason public authorities and individuals are carrying all these burdens is that the law continues to permit many thousands of miles of unsealed highways to be used by motor vehicles. The amendment requires the Secretary of State to report on whether legislation should continue to permit such use. The Government have recognised the need for a review and consultation, but their proposals for taking the matter forward do not go far or fast enough. There is currently no timescale for action and no clear focus for a review. The Government are also unrealistic in hoping that a stakeholder working group made up of the parties involved—the mechanism for action which has been suggested—will reach agreement. This is not remotely possible, and setting up such a group at this point will therefore serve only to waste further time. That is why the amendment sets a timetable and a clear focus for action.

At this stage, I should point out that I am not concerned with traditional motor vehicle trials in the countryside. They are not a problem; it is the unsealed roads that are a problem. There is also a tendency to paint those who are campaigning on this issue as the rich. I want to refute that, as many walkers who are in the group we are seeking to protect most are relatively poor compared with those who often drive very expensive four-wheel drive vehicles. It has been suggested that barriers may be an effective way of closing off some lanes, but experience has shown that these barriers are often winched out by the 4x4 vehicles, many of which are equipped with winches. I am told that there is no problem in Scotland, where off-roading is not allowed, but Wales has similar problems to those in England.

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I know that I am not allowed to show photographs but I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that I have many photographs from a very wide area, including the Lake District, the Peak District National Park and the North York Moors National Park. The damage is so significant that I believe we must take action. I beg to move.

7.30 pm

Lord Jopling (Con): My Lords, I declare four different interests as regards this matter. First, I have farming and landowning interests, although, whereas there are public rights of way over my land, I do not think that the matters to which the noble Lord refers affect my interests in any way. Secondly, for a great deal of my life I have been an active motorcyclist. Looking back, apart from riding a motor cycle over my own land, I do not think that I have ever gone a yard off the main highway. Certainly, I am not involved in any of these activities. Thirdly, in this aspect, for 14 years, I was president of the Auto-Cycle Union, which is the governing body of motorcycle sport. The ACU issues licences for events and competitors. Official events cannot take place without its licences. It has a very strict form of discipline for those organisers or competitors who break the rules. Finally as an interest, I was a Member of Parliament for 33 years for the southern part of the Lake District, which covered parts of the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

I have always been very concerned about the way in which these unsealed roads and byways get absolutely wrecked by totally irresponsible people who use them as race tracks. For many years, I have taken a view that we should try to do something to stop these people who chew up the byway and behave in a totally irresponsible manner. Therefore, I have a great deal of sympathy for what goes behind this proposed new clause. We need to keep it in perspective because, as I understand it, there are 6,000 miles of unsealed roads in the country compared with 115,000 footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways. We are not talking about byways which are the dominant part of those ones where the public should have every opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside.

Trying to come to a formula to deal with this, as the noble Lord said, is fiendishly difficult. We have to ensure that some of the vital interests continue to be able to go about their business. The day has gone when the shepherd plodded the moors with his dogs. Nowadays, they use 4x4s, which means that they must continue where it is essential to be able to use these unsealed roads. Shooting interests also often use them, as they should. In particular, I was rather apprehensive when I heard the noble Lord propose this new clause that he was trying to get at properly organised sporting events.

With my former ACU hat on, I was delighted to hear that he is not proposing to get at those organised events, which are done under very strict rules. I remember that years ago when I was in the Commons there was a great problem with unauthorised car rallies that raced through villages in the middle of the night—cars with open exhausts making a perfect nuisance of themselves. Things were changed so that only car rallies organised by the official motor sport organisations were supposed

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to take place. Nowadays one never hears of this problem. I hope, therefore, that we can get something done. How do we do that? I dislike this new clause for one particular reason: that it is done by statutory instrument. That means that Parliament would have no chance to amend it, and because this is such a contentious issue Parliament should have a way of amending proposals to do with it. This is the aspect of the new clause I am most critical about—it ought to be done by primary legislation, not in this way.

As I understand it, Mr Rogerson proposed—in another place—to set up a group. I do not see terribly much difference, with great respect to the noble Lord who proposed it, between a group being set up and the Minister himself having to lay proposals, which is what the new clause proposes. We know that it is going to be difficult but let us have a group and let them have a go at trying to find agreement about these things. It is essential that we deter the abuses that currently take place and the best way forward would be to follow Mr Rogerson’s proposals. I hope the Minister, in his reply, will stick to that.

I end, perhaps in a rather cynical way, by saying that the last thing this proposal is, is deregulation. It is not deregulation at all. I wonder if it is in order in regard to the Long Title of the Bill. However, I am not going to make an issue of that. I welcome efforts to try to do something about this menace but this is the wrong way to go about it. A year is too short a time. I hope the Minister will proceed in the way that Mr Rogerson suggested.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, I am conscious that this is a very interesting debate, but I am also conscious that by agreement the Moses Room tends to finish soon after 7.30 pm, with a little leeway to go on longer. It would be very helpful, since we wish to finish this clause, if contributions were as brief as is seemly.

Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe (CB): My Lords, I speak briefly in support of this amendment. Like many noble Lords, I must declare an interest: I am a shareholder in a family company that owns and farms arable land in north-west Essex. I am, and have been for 60 years, a user of footpaths, bridleways and, from time to time, byways open to all traffic, on other people’s land in Essex and in many other parts of England. This is a point on which there is no real difference of interest between reasonable landowners and walkers and riders. All of us can coexist; what none of us can easily coexist with are those who use byways open to all traffic for four-wheeled vehicles, sometimes caravans of them, with their main object, it seems, being to make as much noise and mess as possible.

I have received many letters on this subject—they all seem genuine letters, written by the person who signed them and not copying something out—all in favour of this amendment. I had one yesterday, as it happens, from my brother-in-law, who is over 80 now. He wrote to me that, from his earliest years, he was a regular user of the Long Causeway that starts in Sheffield and goes to the heart of the Peak District

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National Park and described how that beautiful old path has been repeatedly and seriously damaged by four-wheel drive vehicles. He cited the fact—and I have no reason to doubt it—that the Peak District National Park Authority recently incurred expense of no less than £250,000 in trying to repair the Long Causeway. I therefore support the amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank most warmly the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for having introduced this amendment. If one looks at the photographs to which he referred and others—the evidence of our own eyes—one sees that this could be described in other circumstances as wilful and irresponsible vandalism. It is the destruction of one of our greatest assets and the people doing it should be treated firmly. Of course, it is going to be a complex area and it will be difficult, but the point is that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is having a go. If his proposals are not right, let us get proposals that are effective but let us stop dilly-dallying on this issue.

Some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, are very valid, not surprisingly, and I am sure that as we take this matter forward they can be considered. If the amendment is brought back on Report, as I hope it will be, perhaps they can be considered by then, which would be very sensible.

Sometimes in this context, there is emotional talk about the right of the handicapped to access the countryside. To those of us who work in the sphere of national parks and the rest, all the evidence suggests that the responsible representative bodies of the handicapped and the others are saying that what is happening is a menace, because it makes walking—for the blind, which is a very obvious example—much more hazardous and difficult. For the deaf—and I understand that problem, being deaf myself—it can be a terrifying experience when this noise suddenly occurs, with no sort of warning.

The point that we need to remember, and it is about social responsibility, is that what a few are doing is placing significant financial penalties on people who are trying to care for these rich and special national assets. This means that the cost of that care very often gets passed on to the taxpayer, to the subscriber and the donor. Is the indulgence of those few in irresponsible behaviour to be subsidised by society as a whole? That is just ridiculous. The financial and Treasury disciplines that apply to most of our lives should mean that we make it a priority to get this situation put right. I therefore again thank the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, most warmly and say that the sooner that we can do something about it, the better.

Baroness Parminter: Can the Minister, in his closing remarks, answer a question that I think will be of interest to all noble Lords? This amendment deals with a very important issue and I think we are very grateful for it having been raised today. The question is how we deal with it. I agree with my noble friend Lord Jopling that a stakeholder group is the best way forward. However, there have been questions raised about how much confidence we can have in that as a route to deliver. Can the Minister say what progress

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has been achieved in setting up a working group on this issue? Has a timetable been set for that working group and if it does not complete by that point, what actions do the Government intend to take? Perhaps the Minister can say in words of one syllable whether he, like his colleague down the other end, has confidence that a stakeholder working group can address this very real problem. The strength of feeling in this Grand Committee today shows it is something that this House wishes to be addressed quickly.

7.45 pm

Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, I actually put my name down to support this amendment but, unfortunately, too late to get onto the Marshalled List. My main point directly contradicts what the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said. I think this is a deregulatory amendment and, as such, fits in very well with this Bill. If passed it would involve much less work for local highway authorities, organisations and individuals; it would also simplify the law for others. It makes it unnecessary for the local highway authority to classify or define the status of each and every one of these UUCRs—unsealed, unclassified county roads.

We have heard this evening about the lack of resources available to highway authorities and they would inevitably not have the duty mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, to repair some of these roads. There is less work also for planning authorities and, possibly, the courts. It obviates unnecessary work, research and legal proceedings by the public sector, private individuals and bodies on the vast majority of the 3,000 miles of green lanes. Incidentally, it would prevent most of them being churned up into wet, muddy brown lanes, as has been said, by motorised traffic where drivers have wrongly assumed that they have automatic rights to use them. They do not. Just because the roads have not yet been classified by the highway authority, which has not the time or the resources to do it, it does not mean that drivers have the right to use them. It puts the onus on those wishing to use these UUCRs for motorised traffic to prove their case and it gives them a full three years to do so, which seems a reasonable window. The local highway authority will not have to investigate all the green lanes and by the end of the three-year window, clarification and certainty for all will prevail. That is the key—uncomplicated clarity and certainty.

Under the current circumstances, it is extremely likely that these UUCRs will be left until after 2026 because the local highway authorities are not getting round to dealing with them. They will be left and remain uncertain. Drivers will continue to use them because they will not be properly classified by 2026. Not surprisingly, no progress has been made on that front at all. This amendment is deregulatory for both public bodies and private individuals and I recommend that the Government look very favourably on accepting it. I believe that it would be very popular with walkers, bicyclists and riders, who are a very large constituency.

Viscount Bridgeman (Con): My Lords, I will be very brief. I support my noble friend Lord Bradshaw’s very comprehensive outline of the purpose of this amendment

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and I, too, express my regrets to the Committee that I was not able to be present at Second Reading. There is, of course, an element of farce, were this not a really serious matter, in that the precedent is claimed by the off-roaders that these green lanes in the past were open to horse-drawn vehicles. I find it very regrettable that some of the national park authorities, which of all bodies should be the basic guardians of this beautiful and threatened environment for which they are responsible, have not been universally helpful. There has been a wide disparity of co-operation across the local authorities. My noble friend indicated the difficulties that they face. There has certainly been a multiplicity of police and local authorities. It is interesting that one of the success stories is the Ridgeway where there is only one police authority, Thames Valley. In the past, there has been a knight in shining armour on that police authority—my noble friend himself.

The Minister has gone as far as he can in flashing exhibits to this Committee, but I know that he has received pictures of the appalling damage that is done on these green lanes. He made the point about traffic regulation orders, and a lot of authorities are very wary of instituting those for the reasons that he gave: the huge potential cost of defending against challenges.

I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised the question of disabled access. There have been unfortunate cases where confrontations between groups of learning disabled people and motorcycles or 4x4s have turned violent. We have to remember that the 4x4 and motorcycle groups are very powerful and persuasive, and they do not always have the restraining and responsible influence of the Auto-Cycle Union, to which my noble friend Lord Jopling has referred. I support the working group. The Government’s apparent policy of reconvening these stakeholder groups, which have hitherto failed to reach agreement, is not helpful.

This is an opportunity that will not occur again. I have a feeling that this has been kicked into the long grass—possibly an unfortunate reference in this context, as the green lanes could probably do with a little more of that. However, this opportunity will not occur again for many years to come. It is a simple amendment to rectify unintended gaps in past legislation and I strongly hope that the Minister will give it some consideration.

Lord Grantchester: My Lords, the problems arising from recreational motor vehicles—4x4s and motorbikes—using green lanes, unsealed tracks and other classified county roads have become very serious. For today’s Committee I have received a large postbag of submissions highlighting the disruption to quiet enjoyment of the countryside, and indeed the destruction of the pathway that precludes any other use. The Green Lanes Protection Group, made up of some 20 organisations ranging all the way from the Lake District in Yorkshire through North Wales and the Brecon Beacons to Somerset and the South Downs, has provided evidential photographs of the damage, and this is supported by many green lane alliances and concerned individuals.

This is becoming a serious, pressing matter to sort out. We recognise this and, in expressing sympathy, urge the Government to commit to a way forward.

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However, I hesitate to prescribe how the Minister should approach this, as the amendment does when it says, for example, that within one year of the Bill’s enactment the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament the report that the amendment calls for.

Perhaps the Minister could say which body, and which process, might be the best way to respond. Would it be once again a stakeholder working group or a sub-committee of wider interest groups that could make recommendations? Legal changes introduced by the NERC Act 2006 have improved the situation by limiting claims for the recognition of additional BOATs and by giving traffic regulation order powers to national park authorities. In places, though, particularly in some national parks, the problems remain extensive and further legislation is most likely to be necessary, along with better enforcement. Any debates on this issue that arise in the context of the Deregulation Bill will be important in paving the way for future legislation.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, in what is an understandably contentious and partly ideological debate about the recreational use of motor vehicles on unsurfaced routes in the countryside, particularly inside national parks, my noble friend’s proposal seeks to place a duty on the Government to assess the burdens and costs caused by the use of mechanically propelled vehicles on unsealed rights of way. Presupposing that the review would conclude that motor vehicle use gives rise to a burden and cost, the clause would give powers to alleviate these but would not seek any assessment of any possible benefits, or seek to weight burdens and cost against such potential benefits.

I have to say that I have considerable sympathy with the genuine concerns of my noble friend and others about the problems that can arise from the recreational use of motor vehicles on unsealed roads. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and others, I think that my noble friend is right to raise it today. Furthermore, I agree that this issue needs to be tackled and some means of resolution to it found. The Government’s published response to the Joint Committee’s report of pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill said as much, but recognised that this Bill was not the right mechanism for doing it.

The issue of recreational off-road motor vehicle use is a complex, emotive and contentious one where one person’s pleasurable pastime is anathema to another. Research conducted on byways open to all traffic—admittedly, some years ago in 2005, although I am not aware of there being a significant change—found that although there are some acute cases of damage by recreational motor vehicle use in hot-spot areas, some of which my noble friend and I discussed earlier today, there was no evidence of widespread damage to the byway network from motor vehicles. The research found that 85% of byways open to all traffic in England carried either light traffic, at an average of 0.6 motor vehicles per day, or moderate traffic, at an average of 5.0 motor vehicles per day. Not all damage to unsealed roads and tracks is caused by the recreational use of motor vehicles. The research found that 62% of byway traffic is due to land management and dwelling access and just 38% is due to recreation. In addition, it found

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that 70% of byways were without any drainage. Much of the damage is due to a combination of farm vehicles, water erosion and poor maintenance.

I must also say that there is good evidence that the use of unsealed roads during organised motoring events, such as hill climbs, puts significant amounts of money into rural economies. There are about 150 hill climb events around the country every year, with over 12,000 participants. The motorcycle club trials in the south-west alone are estimated to bring about £120,000 to the local economy. Some groups of motor vehicle users engage in volunteer activities to repair and maintain unsealed tracks, which I think is something that we would all want to encourage.

It is our contention that the most appropriate way to review policy on the recreational off-road use of motor vehicles is for it to be based on the stakeholder working group model and, in answer to my noble friend Lady Parminter, such a group will be established as soon as possible after the passing of the Bill. Despite my noble friend Lord Bradshaw’s scepticism, I point out that the stakeholder working group approach has proved to be successful, as demonstrated by the consensus in the face of diametrically opposing positions over the rights of way reforms package, of which the clauses in the Bill form the major part. This has resulted in agreement being arrived at through discussion and negotiation.

Lord Judd: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. If he is advocating the working group approach, in learning from the last experience, does he envisage that that group might be given a time limit by which it is expected to report?

Lord De Mauley: I was just coming to the noble Lord’s earlier question on timing in a moment.

My noble friend asked what would happen if there was no consensus between the pro-vehicle and anti-vehicle groups. Clearly, consensus would be the preferred outcome but of course we recognise that ultimately this may not prove possible. Even without consensus, at least all the viable policy options will have been properly explored and evaluated by stakeholders, enabling Ministers to make better informed decisions on which proposals to take forward.

On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the original stakeholder working group took 18 months to reach its conclusions and there is no reason why we should not set a similar timeframe for another. I am grateful to have my noble friend Lord Jopling’s support for this route. Within such a group, recognised experts can explore all the viable possibilities and their likely consequences. Solutions arrived at in this way, based on agreement and mutual interest, are likely to result in less conflict and reduce the need for enforcement.

My noble friend’s proposed new clause would create new regulation, which may not prove necessary after the issue has been properly analysed and discussed by the stakeholder working group and other stakeholders. Furthermore, subsection (3) of his proposed new clause contains a power to adopt some sort of measure to remove public rights of way by regulations. We believe that this would be an inappropriate use of delegated

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legislation and does not recognise that the best solutions to problems are often those that do not resort to legislation.

I am happy to have further discussions with my noble friend between now and Report but, on the basis of what I have said today, I hope that he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bradshaw: I thank my noble friend very much. The Minister’s offer of further discussion is very pertinent

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because many people in your Lordships’ House feel very strongly about this issue. I was not convinced by the statement that there were only a few places; this is happening all over, and is growing. Urgent steps must be taken to deal with it. I may not be the expert on what those steps are but I am happy to engage in further conversations. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.

Committee adjourned at 8.01 pm.