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Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, oh dear! I am somewhat concerned about Amendment No. 222 which is tabled in the name of my noble friend, but I am not concerned about the others in the group. Indeed, I am
I dealt more fully with the problem of trying to diversify and encourage employment when I moved my amendment to Clause 112. However, I should like to repeat that wherever or whatever development takes place, there is always a detrimental effect on the environment and culture of the area. That cannot be helped. I make no bones about the fact that my life--and we are all biased by it, I suppose--and work has always favoured production and employment rather than culture, hereditary matters and the birds and the bees. I do not see how you can look after these things and the environment without first making money.
Before your Lordships castigate me as a Philistine, which I certainly am, perhaps I may say rather sheepishly in retaliation--although perhaps I ought not to--that I may be the only Member of this House, probably because of my wife, who has won an award for conservation on my farm. But the point is that that was only after I made it profitable and had taken out a hedge or two, or three; or, indeed, four, if you wish. Therefore, I cannot agree with Amendment No. 222 tabled in the name of my noble friend. All I can say is that he has made me feel considerably happier and younger because it is quite a long time since I disagreed and crossed swords with my own party. I feel much the better for it. I leave it to the Minister to be Solomon between us.
Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I have some sympathy with the amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. I thank him and the Open Spaces Society for having drawn the attention of the House to this distinction between common land which is acquired compulsorily and that which is acquired by agreement. If it is acquired compulsorily the procedure must comply with the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. That offers a degree of protection to the rights of the public and those of commoners which are attached to the land.
In contrast, if the common land is acquired by agreement, as I understand it, there is no statutory provision to safeguard such rights as are attached to the land. Amendment No. 221 is based on Section 229 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. As I understand it, it would extend the law so as to protect the rights of the public and of commoners which attach to common land which has been acquired by agreement. I am sure there is no need for me to remind the House that open spaces are--and I believe have been for about 120 years--in a special position as they provide the general public with access to open country which is
Of course I accept the need to achieve sustainable economic growth, particularly in Wales, but nevertheless there is also a need to protect open spaces for the benefit of future generations. I believe the WDA inherits its acquisition of land powers from the Land Authority of Wales. We are told by the Open Spaces Society that it is not aware that the Land Authority of Wales has used the power in circumstances which worry the society. We can take comfort from that statement. It must be borne in mind that under this Bill the WDA will be accountable to the assembly. I suggest that it is for the assembly to decide how the WDA is to exercise its land acquisition powers. I would like to think that the arguments which have been advanced this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, will be heard and considered by the assembly.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, was kind enough to give us notice before this evening that she would not be able to move her amendments. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for moving the amendment with such skill and for discussing the matter in such detail, particularly in relation to Amendment No. 221. It is an important amendment and I am glad to have the opportunity to, I hope, put his mind and that of the Open Spaces Society at rest.
Amendment No. 221 reflects the association of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, with the Open Spaces Society and its perfectly legitimate wish to protect public rights over land acquired by the WDA. This was, of course, a matter which we debated in Committee with some interest, although the amendment now proposed, Amendment No. 221, goes somewhat further than the amendment moved by the noble Baroness in Committee.
Amendment No. 221 relates to the provisions of Schedule 13 to the Bill which would insert a new Schedule 4 to the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975. As currently drafted, paragraph 8 to the new schedule does not provide for the extinguishment of common land or public open space rights. It merely provides that where planning permission would allow an alternative use to such land, that use may be implemented, notwithstanding any restriction in any public or local Act of Parliament which operates in respect of the land.
The amendment seeks to impose further conditions on the alternative use of common land or public open space which has been acquired, either by agreement or compulsorily, by the Welsh Development Agency. The alternative use, although authorised by planning permission, would, if the amendment were to be successful, be possible only in three particular circumstances: where the land has been acquired compulsorily, where the land has been acquired from a local authority which could lawfully have used it without additional statutory procedures, or where the
I submit that there is no need for the amendment. Certainly, the proposed powers being made available to the agency will not permit it to act in a draconian manner going around Wales acquiring common land or public open space simply because such land may have a future for development purposes.
The position is that the land acquisition powers set out in Schedule 13 to the Bill are those which have been exercised by the Land Authority for Wales since its inception under the provisions of the Community Land Act 1975. As your Lordships will be aware, the aims and functions of the Land Authority, upon its abolition, will be continued within the expanded Welsh Development Agency. Thus these land acquisition powers have been in existence for over 20 years and exercised by the Land Authority. It is a matter of government policy that the "new" agency will assume the responsibilities undertaken by, and the related statutory powers available to, the Land Authority.
Under our proposals, the agency will be required, by virtue of the new Section 21A in the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 to demonstrate, before acquiring land either by agreement or compulsorily, that it has given consideration to whether the land in question would be available for development if it did not act and has consulted the appropriate local authorities and the relevant National Park, as the case may be, where planning permission for the proposed alternative use has not been granted. It must also consider the impact of its development intention for the land on those engaged in the construction, agriculture and forestry industries in particular, and the community in general. These are safeguards which already exist and are a framework within which the Land Authority has successfully worked for over the past two decades.
The amendment would be counter to the Government's policy, put in place unnecessary limitations but also impose, uniquely to the agency, that any acquisition of common land or public open space would have to follow the Acquisition of Land Act procedures that otherwise apply only in respect of compulsory acquisition. So in this respect the Welsh Development Agency would be placed in a unique position.
With regard to the noble Lord's wish to protect Wales's open spaces, and therefore to prevent the WDA from insensitive or careless use of the natural environment, may I emphasise that the agency is, of course, bound by any designations under United Kingdom or EC or international law. In such instances, it may not attempt any development without consulting the Countryside Council for Wales, the Government's statutory advisers in Wales. So I submit that there are adequate safeguards already.
I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, who, for understandable reasons, expressed sympathy to some extent with the amendment but said also that the assembly will be there to see what
Turning to Amendment No. 222, the noble Lord has again manifested his concern for the natural environment and the built heritage of Wales. However, the amendment is identical to that which the noble Baroness moved in Committee. I cannot really add anything further to the comments I made at that time. Suffice it to say that the Government do not consider that the amendment is appropriate.
I am sure that the noble Lord will recognise that, by seeking to turn the Welsh Development Agency into an omnipotent body with the same overarching responsibility for the natural environment as is properly the work of the Countryside Council for Wales, and for the built heritage that is the work of Cadw, the Welsh agency for the preservation of ancient and historical monuments, he is rather suggesting that these fine bodies should be abolished--for they would have nothing left to do were the WDA to take on their functions.
It is incorrect to assume, however, that the agency does not pay regard to its environmental duties. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, stated in Committee that the Welsh Development Agency has,
Furthermore, I am again indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, who so rightly pointed out in Committee that we must not forget that the main function of the Welsh Development Agency is to further the development of the Welsh economy and,
I move on from Amendment No. 222 to Amendment No. 224. Again, this is a matter which we considered in Committee, and my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn, as the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said, wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on 24th June, placing a copy of the letter in the Library of the House, explaining why it was not necessary to widen the definition as she had then proposed. That remains the Government's view.
I fully appreciate that the thrust of the amendment now before the House is to protect the interests of charitable bodies and those in the voluntary sector for the valuable work which they undertake across Wales, most noticeably in the area of environmental protection.
The key economic development function of the Welsh Development Agency does not mean that it should not have the scope to engage in social development activities where these could be a useful complement to its economic development undertakings. That is relevant to the underlying issue raised by the third amendment. That is why we have made provision for the social development powers of the Development Board for Rural Wales to be transferred, with the abolition of that body, to the "new" agency, and these powers will be available for use in all areas of Wales.
I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised by the noble Lord, particularly in relation to Amendment No. 221, into which he went with skill and in commendable depth. If I see from Hansard there are points which I have not adequately dealt with, I shall write to the noble Lord. I hope that, in the light of the explanation I have given, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
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