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Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 27:


Page 5, line 4, leave out ("or adjacent to")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry moved Amendment No. 28:


Page 5, line 20, at end insert--
("(3A) Where an application has been made for development and, in the opinion of the local planning authority or a conservation board established under section 88B of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, the development will materially affect an area of outstanding natural beauty or any part of it, or will materially conflict with any development plan which relates to the affected area of outstanding natural beauty, the local planning authority shall give notice of the application to the Secretary of State."")

The noble Lord said: I felt that I should move this amendment because it was my idea that the original clause should be in this Bill, not that of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. I should therefore take responsibility.

I should take responsibility also for withdrawing it and suggesting this amendment instead. The original clause did, indeed, require that if in simple terms a conservation board objected to a planning application that was within their purlieu and the local authority wished to go ahead with it, the Secretary of State would have to call it in. We put it more politely but that was the effect of the amendment. There are probably quite a number of people who would like to see that happen, particularly if it was a case of a local authority giving itself permission to develop land within an AONB, which would mean in fact that the local authority would be judge and jury in its own case.

However, I accept the point that was made very strongly by the Minister in the Second Reading debate; that is, that it is impossible to require a Secretary of State to call in such an application. For that reason, we drafted this new Clause 3A, which appears as Amendment No. 28. This states that in the case I envisaged--where the development materially affects an area of outstanding natural beauty or any part of it or materially conflicts with any development plan which

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH44

relates to the affected area of outstanding natural beauty--the local planning authority shall give notice of the application to the Secretary of State.

This would, in simple terms, be a way of making certain that the local authority calls this application to the attention of the Secretary of State. Presumably the conservation board might wish to support that with a letter or a representation of its own and one would hope that the Secretary of State, when he received such a notification, would regard the matter as "particularly persuasive"--I believe that is the technical language. The exercise of this mechanism would, however, possibly be the subject of departmental guidance in future.

This amended edition is indisputably a compromise. It is a compromise between the original situation in the Bill and the fact that one cannot require the Secretary of State to call in applications. I hope, therefore, that the compromise as spelt out in my Amendment No. 28 will be acceptable to the Minister and to the Committee.

Lord Chorley: The noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, has spoken to this amendment very fully and I need say little more, other than to support him.

Lord Rotherwick: I wish to say briefly that Amendment No. 29 contains a similar argument to Amendment No. 26 and should perhaps correctly have been coupled with it. It is over-draconian. This power is really more appropriate to an elected body such as a local authority. I would also question how it would be funded.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I have reservations about this. I referred to the principle in debate on the first amendment. We are providing further controls and hurdles for anybody who wishes to develop an area of outstanding natural beauty. I am therefore concerned that those who want to keep the place alive with new development will have yet another hurdle. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is virtually forcing the Secretary of State to call in an application.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 relate to the important question of call-in procedure. Amendment No. 29 would delete the provision in the Bill which, as drafted, would have the effect of deeming planning applications to have been called in by the Secretary of State. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, for his detailed description of this provision and for the reasons that he outlined in his support of this amendment and we would therefore support it too.

Amendment No. 28 would provide for the local planning authority or conservation board to give notice to the Secretary of State in the case of a development proposal which would materially affect an AONB or materially conflict with the relevant development plan. The Secretary of State would then be able to take a decision on whether to call in in the usual way.

Although we would wish to look further at the precise wording, this is the sort of provision the Government are likely to be able to find acceptable in the event of

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conservation boards becoming a reality. As drafted, it may be defective and, therefore, we would wish consideration to be given to it between now and Report.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I have a problem. I could support Amendment No. 29 if Amendment No. 28 were agreed by the Committee. I cannot support Amendment No. 29 if Amendment No. 28 is not being supported by the Minister because I want some reference to this issue in the Bill.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I sought to make clear that we support the principle behind Amendment No. 28, but that the wording is defective. Therefore, it may help the noble Lord if both amendments are withdrawn at this stage and there is discussion before Report stage.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 28 and look forward to discussion at Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 29:


Page 5, leave out lines 22 to 38

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 30:


Page 5, line 25, leave out ("or adjacent to")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 31:


Page 5, line 40, leave out paragraph (c)

The noble Lord said: This amendment gives the conservation board the right to be heard in call-in cases. Currently, this extends only to the local authority and the applicant and this right is not extended to other organisations. The current call-in procedure is sufficient to address genuine concerns without putting applicants to unnecessary delays and costs that would be incurred at inquiry. Such decisions are best made by the local authority, applicant and Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I am afraid that I cannot agree to that. It is necessary that the conservation board should be able to be heard on these issues and the wording in the Bill as it stands is correct.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government do not accept the amendment since the principle needs closer scrutiny.

Lord Rotherwick: I should be grateful to have the opportunity to scrutinise this more closely and bring it back at a later stage when I shall see whether we cannot put up a good argument to persuade my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry to agree to it. Sadly, therefore, I must beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

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Schedule 1 [Schedule to be inserted as the Third Schedule to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949]:

Lord Renton of Mount Harry moved Amendment No. 32:


Page 7, line 9, after ("120") insert ("(except subsection (3)")

The noble Lord said: I am not quite sure of the Minister's position in relation to the six amendments which withdraw the powers of compulsion. They are only withdrawing something that is in the Bill to which I do not imagine she objects. If she does, I will not move them. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My understanding was that this amendment had been debated. The noble Lord is asking whether Amendment No. 32 and the subsequent five can be accepted. The Government cannot accept them because we wish to look more closely. I am sorry.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 to 38 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Schedule 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Rotherwick: All of us here have a great affinity to the countryside and those who work and live in it, and we wish to sustain that. We want it not to remain a decaying museum but we wish to renovate and conserve it. To that extent I welcome the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry, which is his response to that challenge.

However, we have two main concerns about the Bill. First, do we really need the Bill? That is the question that I find the most difficult. There is a good deal of sympathy from various people around me that it is unnecessary to go forward with the Bill. I shall come to that later.

The other main concern is: how are we to fund all these additional costs? My noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry has partially answered this, but why does he see it as so important to increase all the powers for areas of outstanding natural beauty? Are we not getting rather too close to the idea of areas of outstanding natural beauty becoming a national park? I know that there are some serious differences, one of which is that national parks offer greater opportunities for open air recreation. National parks are also stand-alone planning authorities in their own right. Apart from that, it seems as though we are trying to make an AONB similar, apart from those two important differences, to a national park. I question whether that is necessary. I question whether this is necessary. I question also whether this vehicle that is being built will be sufficiently flexible for all the AONBs to operate within. We are talking of AONBs from the Isles of Scilly right up to the Northumbrian coast, and from the Norfolk coast right up to the North Pennines. I know that my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry has his doubts about this, because in a

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH47

recent letter he stated, "It is unlikely that such boards would be needed for any but the largest and most complex AONBs".

It is also a great concern of the local communities, because this would produce a double whammy for them. Not only would they be required to fund the additional costs of a conservation board, but also they would end up funding the requirements of that conservation board.

Sadly, my noble friend Lord Kimball had to carry out duties in the North and I was left to do this without his help. However I should like to quote something he said at Second Reading,


    "the awful thing is that countryside officers in various guises now outnumber farmers, farm workers and foresters".--[Official Report, 21/5/99, col. 547.] That brings this crucial point home. At this moment our farming industry and our local communities are in crisis. The world price for wheat is £65 a tonne. Though I am fortunate to be a very efficient farmer, like many others I can only produce wheat at this moment for £75 a tonne, and with subsidies that means that there are only a couple of pounds' profit per acre.

We are talking about spending considerable sums of money on the landscape. On Second Reading I was grateful, as will be all those living and working in the countryside, that the Minister stated that there will be,


    "an additional £2.5 million for work in AONBs and other similar landscapes this year".--[Official Report, 21/5/99, col. 588.] She goes on to say that that money will help in putting into place new management plans and programmes. But horror of horrors, she goes on to say,


    "and in helping to attract additional expert staff".

Everybody must make up their minds whether this is the sort of Bill that should be imposed on the countryside. We are looking at the balance of the needs of the people against the needs of the landscape. If we have a profitable local rural economy, they have the ability and desire to do the conservation and renovation of the landscape. If one neglects that area and puts all the emphasis and constraints on the landscape, then we have the balance wrong.


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