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Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 3, at end insert--
("(e) any person owning or occupying the land in association with those other public bodies charged with the care of the area of outstanding natural beauty")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 8 and 12. The fact that this amendment needs to be moved shows that the Bill as it currently stands does not take account of the people. I cannot reiterate often enough that the countryside is its people; they have made it what it is in the face of enormous external pressure. The preservation of areas of natural beauty, like the future of the countryside as a whole, relies on the co-operation and good will of those who live in the countryside and who depend on it for their livelihoods.

The insertion of the amendment will ensure that in the provision for, and the running of, AONBs, the term "public body" in this clause will include:

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    management, protection and development of AONBs, the Bill would be frustrated. Worse still, it would risk becoming a source of resentment and conflict. That is precisely the opposite of what we should be trying to achieve, which is partnership and consensus. It would be tragic if an arrogant attitude prevailed and the rights and the need of the owners and occupiers working with other relevant organisations were not recognised and protected by the inclusion of the amendment.

The aim of Amendment No. 8 is also to protect the owners and occupiers from the dangers of arbitrary interference into their land and livelihoods. It is an important consideration that while special designated areas are subject to greater restrictions on use, access and so forth, arbitrary interference is always minimised and, so far as possible, the rights of owners and occupiers are protected. We must ensure that those rights are respected by the Bill.

Moreover, it is simply a question of natural justice that owners and occupiers should be formally involved in the planning and care of AONBs. The amendment recognises that the involvement of the owners and occupiers in the management and protection of AONBs is of central importance in ensuring the success of, and strategy or plan established for, an AONB. Moreover, it will ensure that AONBs continue to be an integral part of the broader rural scene. If their natural link to rural communities is broken, they are in danger of becoming frozen at some arbitrary point in time and, far from being an asset to the local community, they could become a burden.

Let us not forget that it has been the hand of man with nature that has created most AONBs. One of the elements that has created and sustained that beauty is the living dynamic quality. Destroy that and something essential will be lost. Indeed, I should go so far as to say that the loss of local involvement at the formal as well as the informal level could sound the death knell of AONBs in the long term.

The key mutual relationship between man and his environment, in which different needs must be balanced and in which man must play an active, responsible role, is increasingly being lost, abdicated or impinged upon by political correctness and those who, while making decisions which impact upon the countryside, neither understand it nor rely on it for their livelihoods. That symbiotic relationship to which I referred, and the experience that goes with it, will be invaluable in planning AONBs and ensuring their future.

This amendment would protect the rights of individuals while ensuring that that invaluable source of wisdom is formally incorporated into the management structure of AONBs. We also avoid, by the amendment, further alienating rural people, something we cannot afford to do particularly at this difficult time for those in the rural economy, especially those involved in the farming crisis at present. I beg to move.

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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, in the past few years the attitude towards areas of outstanding national beauty has changed. Like my party, I have always been a supporter of preserving areas of outstanding natural beauty. Indeed, I declare an interest, as vice-president of the Council for National Parks.

The real menace to the countryside comes from the threat to farming, small farms and the businesses that depend on them. That is what we must fight against. There is not much sign of anyone doing anything about it. If the present situation continues, we shall, over the next few years, lose our English countryside. We might then become like America, where conservation areas such as national parks seem to be plucked out of nowhere, and are not part of the living countryside, as they are now in Britain. That is why I am inclined to support the amendments, and hope that they will be accepted.

Lord Chorley: My Lords, I understand and support the aspirations of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. However, I wonder whether the amendments are technically the right way to proceed. I have some difficulty in equating a private person, even though he is in association with other public bodies, with the beginning of what will be new Section 87(A)(2), which states:

    "For the purposes of this section "relevant authority' means". The various bodies are then listed, to which will be added "any person". That seems rather strange, and I wondered whether the Minister could advise us whether this is the right way to achieve the end sought.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I rise to support these amendments, and I bear in mind the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. I shall be interested in the Minister's reply. It is crucial that whatever management structure is set up under the terms of the Bill, it should encompass those who live and work in the countryside and have done so for years. The amendments specify that they should be consulted.

My noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley has highlighted the problem that we face. Many of us are involved in farming, and most of us know the dreadful times suffered by farmers. These amendments would reassure farmers who may feel that they are being bypassed or having imposed on them management structures over which they have little say, interpretive power or support.

With those few comments, I feel that it is important that we include all the knowledge, past wisdom and practical expertise which we have. It is important that we include young people involved in agriculture today, and indeed, those on tenanted land as opposed to owned land or land farmed as a family farm. Economic activity within AONBs is crucial for their future success. It is the balance of structures which leads my noble friend to move these amendments. I hope that the Minister will feel able to support them.

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is my understanding that in moving Amendment No. 4, the noble Lord spoke to Amendments Nos. 4, 8, 11 and 12, and he has confirmed that. We are not sure what Amendment No. 4, as drafted, is trying to achieve. We can see the attraction of placing a duty towards AONB care on private citizens, but doubt whether that is a practical suggestion. It was not done in the 1995 legislation on national parks and would need careful scrutiny.

With regard to Amendment No. 8, the Government would want such bodies as the NFU and the CLA to be consulted, along with other interested groups. We should need to decide whether that needs to be stated on the face of any eventual government Bill. We would not accept that organisations, however important, should have an effective veto on setting up a conservation board. That is our understanding of the effect of Amendments Nos. 9 or 10 being taken together with Amendment No. 8.

Speaking to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12, in making his appointments to a conservation board, the Secretary of State would wish to ensure that a wide range of interests were represented. It is almost inconceivable that that would not include people making their living within the AONB, including the management of land. Equally, we should expect conservation boards or local planning authorities to consult widely on the review of management plans. The precise way in which those issues were reflected in the text of the Bill would require further government consideration.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their sympathetic comments. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I think that it is important that we do not lose sight of the balance of the Bill. It is rather too heavy on landscape and not balanced enough towards those who live in the landscape. I accept some of the points made by other noble Lords, but on the whole, I believe that the arguments which I made at the beginning are strong enough to convince me of the need for this amendment, which I commend to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Chorley moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert--
("(1A) Subject to subsection (2) and in pursuance of its duty under subsection (1), every local planning authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or part of an area of outstanding natural beauty shall also seek to foster the economic and social well-being of communities within the area of outstanding natural beauty, but without incurring significant expenditure in doing so.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 which are consequential on it.

At Second Reading, a good deal of reference was made on all sides to the need for a socio-economic clause. That was introduced in Committee and was supported from all sides. The Minister was supportive in principle, although as she said, she wished to

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abstain. Reading Hansard, it emerged that the Government felt that the phraseology used in the 1995 Act--I refer to the key words, "without incurring significant expenditure" in regard to furthering socio-economic issues--was the point of substance. We have tried to include that in the new version which is extremely close to the 1995 Act. I do not think that I need to go over the arguments again because there was wide support for the rationale behind the socio-economic case. I beg to move.

2.45 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I want to speak in support of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. During our debate in Committee, it was clear from all sides that there was a wish that there should be a socio-economic objective within the general objectives of areas of outstanding natural beauty. I certainly accept that.

Today, that is relevant in the case of the South Downs in which I am involved. We do not yet know what will be the effects of the South-East England Development Agency, a new body formed by the Government. Clearly that body has a strong idea of developing the economic success of the south-east of England. Our job, within the South Downs, is to see the economic success that we want to see reflected in the lives of those living and working on the Downs, be they farmers, foresters or craftsmen, working together with conservation.

The South Downs have a particular interest in this provision. The new chairman of the South-East England Development Agency, whom I have met-- I was very interested in what he had to say--has said that his avowed intent is to put the south-east region of Britain into the 10 top regions of Europe. That is not a bad idea. In economic, employment and social terms and for those who live, work and farm on the Downs, that is very important. However, if we are to become like the silicon valley, we have to be certain that conservation and socio-economic development go hand in hand. There is a lot to be said for the development of light industry in and around a large part of south-east England, given its access to airports and to transport generally.

I know that my noble friend--if I may call him that--Lord Chorley, in tabling this amendment, listened carefully to the arguments raised in Committee. Therefore, I hope that the amendment, supported by everyone in principle in Committee, will receive the support of the House today.

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