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Lord Williams of Elvel: I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, in his amendment. Again, as I said at Second Reading, we are dealing with matters of principle. The noble Lord and I have had discussions about the drafting of the amendment. There may be some difficulties, which no doubt the Government will clear up if they accept the amendment. However, the principle is correct.

The principle is simple. Planning guidance in the planning policy guidance notes which we receive from time to time from the Department of the Environment is not adequate to protect the national parks from major developments of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, referred. PPGs can be altered at ministerial whim. There is no provision in parliamentary procedure, other than putting down Unstarred Questions or Motions to resolve in this Chamber, which allow us to debate fully planning policy guidance issued by the Department of the Environment to the planning authorities in England and Wales. I therefore agree with the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, that in the case of national parks—it is quite special—we cannot rely on policy planning guidance issued from time to time, and amended by Ministers from time to time, to protect the parks from major developments. I believe that the Government should accept the principle enshrined in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie.

Having said that, I again reiterate that I am not entirely convinced that, as drafted, the amendment could be placed in the Bill. However, I am sure that the Committee will recognise the force of the argument that I and the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, put forward at Second Reading, and the argument that the noble Lord put forward when moving the amendment.

I can only rely on the Government's good sense. I very much hope that they will look at the amendment with good sense and accept the principle. I hope that at Report stage they may return with a provision which

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will satisfy us all and meet the requirements of the noble Lord and of the organisations he cited which have supported him.

6 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: It is widely accepted that the provisions in the Bill form part of a movement that is spreading throughout the world, which should be supported. To a certain extent such provisions should work in concert.

The recently published report of the World Conservation Union, Parks for Life, addressed the question of major development, a subject which the amendment tackles. Signatories to the Caracas declaration, which included the UK, asserted that,

    "the world community must adopt new and equitable styles of development, based on the care and sustainable use of the environment, and the safeguarding of global life-supporting systems".

Parks for Life also stated that it was vital that protected areas, including national parks, should be subject to protection by national legislation. It called for planning laws to be established which,

    "ensure that the requirements of protected areas management are taken into account in all development planning procedures".

That point reinforces the argument that the place for the major development test is in primary legislation and not in planning policy guidance.

The World Conservation Union Action Plan for Protected Areas in Europe details the kind of test that should be applied, and that includes the assessment of need and alternative, as put forward by the amendment. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

Lord Chorley: This is the second amendment to which I have put my name. In some ways I believe that it is more important than the previous amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and others, with which we were successful.

The Government's position, oft repeated, is that in the national parks,

    "major development should not take place save in exceptional circumstances and that any such proposals should be subject to most rigorous examination".

That is fine. However, when the Edwards Panel looked into whether that objective was being achieved, it concluded that it was not. The Edwards Report recommended putting the test into primary legislation. However, that policy objective is not being achieved through the planning policy guidance system. If the Committee will bear with me, I wish to cite a few examples. There are many examples of planning policy guidance failure in the national parks. What we need, therefore, is primary legislation and a clear process to establish whether the criteria would be fulfilled.

In the case of developers, there are several major developments currently proposed for national parks where the argument applies. The proposal to extend Swinden Quarry in the Yorkshire Dales, already a most damaging eyesore, is for the extraction of a low-grade mineral for which there is no proven national need and with many alternative sources of supply outside national parks. The public inquiry starts in May.

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There are two proposals for major energy developments which fall outside planning policy guidance. Northern Electric is soon to submit its application for a major pylon development across the North York Moors to supply Whitby. As I understand it, there has been no rigorous publication of alternatives. We have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, about Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. I am told that it has been proposed that it should be used as a nuclear waste repository without a planning application or the drawing up of an environmental statement which would include the case for need and an alternative. A more cost effective and constructive procedure set out in primary legislation would benefit strategic planning in all those cases.

There is the case, also in Wales, of the Welsh Office's proposals regarding the A.5 road at the point where it enters the same national park, the Padog bends. Those will be familiar to some noble Lords. I shall not go into all the aspects of the matter, but if ever there were a major development which appears on the face of it to be unnecessary it must be that.

Then there are decisions which have already been made which have not led to the highest status of landscape protection being afforded to national parks through the planning policy guidance system. On Dartmoor, the national park authority approved lifting special conditions at Meldon Quarry which restricted production to nationally necessary rail ballast. Now it can produce aggregates for which many alternatives exist. The Secretary of State did not call the permission in. The Peak District National Park Authority gave permission to extend Goddards Quarry last year. The output is aggregates used mainly for road building. Again, the permission was not called in.

A clear test set out in primary legislation, with clear criteria, would strengthen the effective delivery of the Government's intention to afford national parks the highest level of protection.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I support my noble friend Lord Chorley and the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. The amendment goes to the very heart of planning procedures as they apply to national parks. I wish to draw attention to the importance of the latter part of the new clause which defines major developments. I referred earlier to the case of the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. When the station was proposed and built—it was the only inland nuclear power station of that magnox generation in the United Kingdom—few people objected on environmental grounds. Yet, clearly, to anyone who cares about the objectives of national parks legislation, such a development should never have taken place. Similar hydroelectric developments and reservoir developments could be pointed to in other national parks as well as Snowdonia.

Smaller scale developments such as a number of proposals for hydroelectric developments which would interfere with the flow of rivers and with the fish habitat have been proposed. I wish to thank in particular the National Rivers Authority for its activity in that area in ensuring in its surveys that river flows will be protected.

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It is important in this context that we turn to road development. Clearly, if there is to be an about turn in government policy on road development, then surely it should occur immediately so far as concerns national parks. My noble friend has already referred to the case of the A.5. The Welsh Office has already taken some action in re-signing and seeking to divert major traffic along the A.55. It is crucial that there should be no extension or widening of the A.5 except where there are severe, dangerous bends at which limited engineering works might be justified for safety reasons. Beyond that there should be no further development.

What is important about the clause is that it enables the major development test to be placed upon all developments within the national parks. It will enable the environmental statements that are produced for planning inquiries dealing with major developments to use the test, wherever the issues are considered. It will enable the test to stand up as an objective criterion against which any major development can be measured. That surely is what national parks are all about. If we have created a specialist, protected piece of landscape, environment and community, we need to ensure that it follows that, with the national value—"national" in this context meaning both Welsh national and English national—national parks can be interfered with only if such interference is absolutely necessary in the national interest. Therefore, if we are to take our own legislation and designation seriously, the whole Committee should support the amendment.

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