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Viscount Ullswater: Responsibility for producing definitive maps rests with the highway authorities, including those maps which encompass the national parks. The purpose of the maps and statements is to record the public rights found to exist and any legal limitations or conditions which affect public use of the way. This may include features such as stiles and gates but it will not include surfacing, for example. Authorities have duties under other legislation to keep rights of way free from obstruction and appropriately maintained. While it is important that information on access for disabled people should be readily available—the national park authorities will be ideally placed to provide such advice—it is not appropriate in the context of the definitive map and statement. I am confident, however, that the national park authorities will be keen to develop policies which enable all people to appreciate the special qualities of their areas.

The noble Baroness spoke about the Ordnance Survey and the importance of showing on its maps information which helps disabled people to enjoy the countryside. Ordnance Survey decides which information it is appropriate to show on its popular maps, which are the 1:50,000 scale Landranger and the 1:25,000 scale Pathfinder maps. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with the overall benefit to Ordnance Survey's

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customers and the readability of maps the main criteria for inclusion. The noble Baroness will understand that there are limits to what may be shown on small-scale, general purpose maps if those maps are to remain readable.

Additional information is held by Ordnance Survey in its national topographic database. In principle this could incorporate information about access to the countryside for the disabled if this were available from a comprehensive and reliable source and users could obtain print-outs from the database tailored to meet their specific purposes in the form of large-scale maps.

I think I have indicated that this is not the most appropriate approach for the purpose which the noble Baroness quite rightly has in mind for people with disabilities. I hope that after what I have said she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Stedman: I am most grateful to the noble Viscount. He has given me far more information than I had previously. I was encouraged to put down the amendment because of the leisure maps produced by the Ordnance Survey which contain a tremendous amount of information. It seems to me that they could easily be adapted to show where certain things are available for the disabled.

I am grateful to the Minister for the care he has taken in his reply. I shall read what he said and perhaps consult as to how we can achieve what I seek in some other way. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 66 agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Miscellaneous statutory functions of authorities]:

Lord Derwent moved Amendment No. 259A:


Page 150, line 41, at beginning insert:

("Public rights of way

.—(1) In a National Park for which a National Park authority is the local planning authority, the authority shall be the highway authority for any public right of way for which the Minister is not the highway authority; and references in the Highways Act 1980 to highway authorities shall be construed accordingly.
(2) In sub-paragraph (1) above, "public rights of way" means any highway which is a right of way to which Part III of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 applies (as defined in section 66 of that Act) or which is a way shown as a road used as a public path in a definitive map and statement prepared under that Part of that Act.
(3) Section 42 of the Highways Act 1980 (power of district councils to maintain certain highways) shall not apply to any highway for which a National Park authority is, by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) above, the highway authority.").

The noble Lord said: In addressing Amendment No. 259A in my name and the names of my noble friends Lord Addison and Lord Wise and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I also speak to Amendments Nos. 259B and 259C. These are substantive amendments. I apologise that they are taken so late at night and I say right from the start that they are supported by the Association of National Parks, the Council for National Parks, the Country Landowners' Association, the Ramblers Association, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Association of County Councils.

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The purpose of my amendments is to transfer responsibilities for management of rights of way, mapping of rights of way and traffic regulation orders—which perhaps I may refer to as TROs—within the parks to national park authorities. In the case of TROs, for reasons that I shall come to later, these powers would duplicate those of existing traffic authorities.

At the outset, I want to make clear what the amendments do not do. They do not in any way seek to change the rights of way network or argue for more or less access. They are solely concerned with mapping and management. They do not affect trunk roads, for which the Secretary of State is the highways authority. In using the term "public rights of way" it is also intended to exclude metalled roads, which are the proper concern of existing highway authorities.

Next, I stress that Amendment No. 259A does not represent anything very revolutionary. It merely reflects what I always understood to be government policy. The National Parks Review Panel recommended that,


    "All National Park Authorities should have the full range of powers ... to keep the definition maps under review, to make orders altering ... rights of way, and to maintain the rights of way network".

In their response to Professor Edwards' report, the Government laid stress on their view that the national parks should be responsible for running the rights of way network. This amendment would achieve that.

My proposal merely recognises that there are certain parts of the highways network where it is logical for the parks to be responsible. Effectively they would become the highways authorities for those roads, paths and lanes which most laymen refer to as the public rights of way network, although in law they are highways.

I should like to deal next with some of the objections that might be raised. The first might be that it would be confusing to have different highway authorities operating in a particular area. That is not so. Section 42 of the Highways Act specifically acknowledges that there are circumstances where different highway authorities would be permissible. That section provides that district councils have a right to take over maintenance of footpaths, bridleways and urban roads; if they do so, they in effect become the highway authority. Incidentally, subsection (3) of this amendment would prevent district councils exercising these powers in respect of footpaths and bridleways in the park if rights of way management is given to national park authorities.

Secondly, it might be said that in practice everything has worked very well until now and that it would be wrong further to overburden an already long Bill. I accept that in practice many highway authorities have delegated the management of rights of way to park committees. The trouble is that others have not and have declined to do so. For example, in the North Yorkshire National Park, North Yorkshire County Council has delegated its powers. Cleveland has not. In all, there are four national parks where similar problems arise. That means that at an arbitrary and invisible point on the map, maintenance of a footpath suddenly shifts from the park to a county council. That cannot be right. Furthermore, in most national parks the work on the

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definitive map, which was referred to in relation to the last amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has not been transferred to national park authorities at all.

I must stress that in the Bill it is firmly laid down that it is one of the two purposes of the national park authorities to promote enjoyment of the national parks. It is hard to see how the park authorities can fulfil that purpose if they do not have responsibility for or control of the rights of way network in their areas.

Finally, it might be argued that instead of this amendment it would be adequate for the Secretary of State to direct all highway authorities to delegate to national park authorities their powers under agency agreements. As I have already mentioned, many do. But this is unsatisfactory. First, I am not clear that the Secretary of State has powers to give such a direction. Secondly, it is unsatisfactory to leave a residual democratic responsibility with a delegating authority. It must be better to grant powers to national park authorities as of right rather than to insist that powers be delegated to them by someone else who remains responsible to the voters.

The time for a change is now. It would not be efficient to have the new national park authorities try to negotiate new schemes of delegation for rights of way powers with the new local authorities being set up under local government reorganisation. In any case, as I said, such authorities have no obligation to delegate anyway. If these amendments are passed, such negotiations would no longer be necessary.

I should like to turn to Amendments Nos. 259B and 259C. In a sense they are consequential, but they are both important in their own right. Amendment No. 259B lays firmly on the park authority both the responsibility and the authority to complete the mapping of the rights of way network in its area. Subsection (2)—this provision is obviously desirable—enables the park authority to prepare a single modified map and statement for the whole of a park. At present, each highway authority is responsible for its own area of the park and the work is being carried out in a piecemeal fashion. It is clearly preferable that one body should survey a park as a whole.

Furthermore, I stress that experience on the ground shows that it is much more efficient to have one body responsible for both the mapping and the practical work. Park officers tell me that real difficulties arise when, before a park can carry out physical work, they have constantly to refer to a county council, which may be slow in responding, to sort out problems about the definitive map.

Amendment No. 259C would give a national park authority the same power to restrict the use of footpaths, bridleways or by-ways open to all traffic that is currently enjoyed by all highway authorities. It would have such powers only in respect of the rights of way for which it was responsible.

At present, when a park authority wishes to start procedures for a TRO to be imposed—for example, to stop the use by motorised traffic of unsuitable lanes or by-ways—in practice it has to persuade the county council or other highway authority to initiate action. It

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is not surprising that county surveyors, who have other priorities, need considerable persuasion to undertake the work involved. After all, it is not the primary purpose of the county surveyor to promote enjoyment of a national park.

It is relevant to say to the Minister quite seriously that on many occasions when Ministers have been asked to take action to control the use by, say, four-wheel drive vehicles, of by-ways which are suitable only for pedestrians or horses, they have consistently (and correctly) replied that highway authorities already have sufficient powers through the mechanism of imposing TROs. Indeed, they have deplored—I have heard them do it—the reluctance of highway authorities to use those powers. The problem in a national park has been that the bodies with the powers have not been particularly interested, whereas the park authorities, who fully understand the need to protect the enjoyment of the park, have not had the powers to do anything about it. Amendment No. 259C would rectify that situation.

In short, the amendments put clearly into the remit of the national park authorities the responsibility for three activities: to survey and record what the rights of way network consists of; to maintain and manage the network; and to take the responsibility for initiating limitations on the use of the network through the Traffic Regulations Order procedures. I believe that on the grounds of logic, timeliness and efficiency, the Bill is the right place to introduce these amendments. I hope that they will commend themselves both to the Minister and to the Committee.

I understand that departments other than the Minister's are involved in these matters and that he may not be in a position to agree with them tonight. However, after having listened to the debate this evening, perhaps he could take them away for further consultation in Whitehall, with the intention of coming back to the subject at Report stage. That might be for the convenience of Members. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Viscount Addison: I speak in support of Amendments Nos. 259A, 259B and 259C. Every year, 1 million visits are made to the national parks and many of those visitors enjoy the parks by using the rights of way network—walking, cycling and horse riding are the most popular activities in the parks, and all make use of the rights of way.

As my noble friend Lord Derwent so ably pointed out, national parks are designated for the promotion of public enjoyment. It is therefore logical and consistent that the national park authorities, which have few statutory responsibilities, should have responsibility for rights of way as the National Parks Review Panel recommended. In making that recommendation the panel was not arguing for a major change to the present pattern of routes; rather it argued for an effective accessible network.

In recommending that national park authorities be given responsibility for rights of way matters, the panel said that the authorities, with their ranger and warden services, are much better placed to deal with problems of path-routeing and maintenance than are the highway

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authorities. It recommended that the authorities should be responsible for the definitive map, as Amendment No. 259B sets out.

Giving responsibility for different parts of the rights of way network to the most appropriate body is not without precedent, as my noble friend Lord Derwent pointed out. Clearly, transferring responsibility from one authority to another will also involve transferring the necessary resources. But that is not an increased cost and the simple matter of transfer should not present problems for the Government. In short, giving the new national park authorities responsibility for rights of way is logical and will remove a tier of unnecessary bureaucracy.


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