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Lord Derwent: I have an amendment in this grouping, Amendment No. 255ZB, which does not go as far as the amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Peel in that it does not seek to add a third purpose for the parks. I have total sympathy with the thinking behind my noble friend's amendment. Indeed, if that amendment is accepted by the Committee, there will be no need for mine, and I would support my noble friend.

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However, I have some anxieties about Amendment No. 254. The national parks do not have the budgets, the staff or the expertise to enable them to take on the responsibility for,


    "promoting the economic and social well-being of local communities".

The responsibility to achieve that lies firmly with central and local government. Being suspicious, I fear that if local councils are encouraged to believe that the responsibility lies with the park authorities, they will tend to ignore their own responsibilities and will pass the buck to the parks, which in turn will have neither the cash nor the resources to do the job.

On the other hand, I think that the parks' obligation as expressed in Clause 59(1), which reads:


    "A National Park authority, in pursuing ... the purposes ... shall have regard to the economic and social well-being of local communities",

is too weak. It means little more than that the park authorities should try, if possible, not to damage the interests of the local communities. I think most park authorities would like to be free to be more helpful than that. That is why I have chosen the word "foster" which implies that the park authorities should try to be helpful to the communities in pursuing their two primary purposes. I too have been approached by the noble Lord, Lord Shuttleworth, who said that in the event of the Committee not accepting the amendment of my noble friend Lord Peel, he and the Rural Development Commission would be in favour of what I think is a compromise suggestion.

I accept that the intention behind my amendment is covered in the draft guidance which the Minister has been good enough to have ready for today's debate. Paragraph 9 refers to the parks working with and for their local communities. That is excellent, but at present the Bill does not go as far as the guidance. I think it should.

Lord Elis-Thomas: The two amendments in the group which stand in my name enable us to look further at the opportunity of co-ordinating the various purposes of national parks by adding the purpose of having regard to the social and economic well-being of the local population and placing that as a clear objective, but within the context of sustainable development. The second amendment adds the sustainable development concept to the present wording in the Bill, which refers to having regard to the social and economic well-being.

We have agreed to place upon the environment agency generally the obligation of operating within the terms of sustainable development. Yet, when we look at this section of Part III, there is no reference to that. Many Members of the Committee believe that the concept of sustainable development is not itself a sustainable concept. However, as regards the objectives of national park policy, it is the most appropriate concept that we could find.

It could be argued that the original 1949 legislation always placed contradictory purposes upon the national park authorities and the national park populations in that there was the obligation to conservation and the

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obligation to recreation or amenity, and those could be seen to be conflicting. It can be argued—and no doubt it will be argued by the Government—that the placing of a third obligation in the purposes adds to that conflict. But if all the objectives are viewed within the overall framework of a policy of sustainable development it can all hang together; all can become coherent purposes.

If we cannot apply sustainable development as a philosophy and a practice in national parks where can we apply it? I believe that the Government should set out clearly what is the interrelation between the economic objectives and the conservation objectives. That is not clear in the Welsh Office draft letter or in the draft circular for England. I shall not go into the reasons why Wales has a draft letter and England has a draft circular, but that appears to be the case. In my view, the Government should state in the letter and in the circular: "Within national parks, here is the area for us to develop the philosophy and practice of sustainable development".

We have the issues of habitat conservation, the conservation of flora and fauna, landscape conservation and the maintenance of cultural heritage. We also have the need to maintain the stability of the local population by creating and maintaining employment. Without those there is not a sustainable population in agriculture, tourism, forestry, other extractive activities, the service industries, the public sector and administration. There is not a population which can sustain the level of activity required to enable national parks to meet the objectives of conservation and recreation.

For all those reasons, I hope that the Minister will look seriously at introducing the concept on the face of the Bill. Having had one defeat today, I suspect that he will not accede to any of the amendments. However, will he look at the matter again in the context of the draft circular and the draft letter? That is all I ask him to do today. The development agencies operating within the parks—in the case of Snowdonia it is the Development Board for Rural Wales and the WDA—the local authorities operating the various EC leader and other programmes that are part of the present economic support structure within the parks will then be seen to be working together with the park authority with the same objectives.

I know that the Minister will say that Clause 59 places an obligation on the other public agencies to carry out or to have regard to national park functions. However, I should like to see the national parks becoming the lead agencies for promoting sustainable development within their areas. They should bring together the possibilities of environmentally friendly tourism, the need for habitat conservation and the need for that level of economic job creation which maintains the local population.

I shall conclude by citing an example that applies to my former parliamentary constituency. At the soon-to-be decommissioned nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park we have experienced the loss of 600 jobs of people directly employed in the power station. That is a case, if ever there was one, where all the public authorities should be co-operating but within national park objectives. None of us who is concerned about the

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long-term economic future of that area would argue for another power station. We would argue for a sustainable longer-term cycle of employment. That can be achieved by ensuring integration between the activities of the park and the economic development agencies.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Vinson: I support the principle behind both amendments. I must declare that for 10 years I was chairman of the Rural Development Commission and I live in a national park. The amendments are important because the day-to-day life of the national park must go on and the national park officers must live, mix and work with the local residents. If the Bill is framed so that the whole emphasis is to give recreation and pleasure to outcomers, and if it does not sufficiently emphasise the livelihoods and importance of those who live within the parks, a tension will be developed between the national park officers and the local village and farm people. The introduction into the Bill of a stronger element—that it is the wish and desire of the national park authority to promote or to foster, which is a good word, the livelihoods of people who live and work in the park—would do immense good. The whole operation of the park administration would work better and good will would be created. Through that will be created the kind of atmosphere that effuses into the area of the park and makes the enjoyment of those who come for whatever purposes doubly so.

I hope that the Government will not dismiss the essential purpose behind the two amendments. I hope that they will consider taking them away and building at least the word "foster" into the aims and purposes of the new national park authority. In that way they will clearly illustrate that they have at heart the good will and livelihoods of those who work there.

Lord Redesdale: I speak mainly in support of Amendment No. 254ZA, in particular in respect of the word "communities". I live within Northumberland National Park, which does not appear to receive many of the benefits of tourism that go to other national parks. However, there appear to be many restrictions on living within the national park.

The communities have a responsibility to uphold the objectives of the national parks and it is important that they should not feel totally constrained by the rules applying to the national parks. It is a little harsh to be seen to be living in a form of rural museum. I support Amendment No. 254ZA in particular because it includes the phrase "sustainable development". It is possible sympathetically to develop economic interests in national parks. However, grants should be available for such activities. Those available to national parks, in particular in Northumbria, are small.

We must look at the economic and social well-being of communities. Living near the Otterburn training area, I have noticed that a large amount of ill will is shown towards the national park. Indeed, it culminated in a petition to remove the national park from the training area because it was considered that it was not interested in the major area of employment. That caused a great deal of hostility towards the national park. Those living

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within the national parks believe that they are for the enjoyment of other people, which increases the restraints. I thoroughly support the amendment.


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