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Baroness Strange: I should like to support some of the amendments but perhaps not all. However, I have received a great many letters from people who are very worried about access. I shall quote from one of them so that the Minister can hear the sort of things that people are saying. This is from a lady from Yorkshire who says:
I express concern that, if Amendments Nos. 2, 7, 8, 10 or 84 are agreed, the option for the fast-track process will be removed. I believe that it would be unfortunate if government were prevented from even considering the fast-track process as part of the implementation process. It is important that when the Bill is passed we see an expansion of access in practice on the ground fairly quickly and certainly within a reasonable period, otherwise the public will lose heart that a Bill of this sort has been passed at all.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 2, 7, 8, 10 and 84. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, rightly drew our attention to the need for proper consideration of restrictions and closures before access to fast-track land is opened up. I believe that he is absolutely right. However, I believe that those restriction and closure considerations can be progressed quite quickly.
There is, of course, another alternative to the progressive introduction of access land. It would be possible to carry it out on a regional basis whereby the maps and concomitant consideration of restrictions and closures for particular regions of the country were completed so that entire regions could be opened up. I believe that that is a possibility and that perhaps--
Viscount Bledisloe: Will the noble Baroness give way? Perhaps I may suggest that that is precisely what can happen under Amendment No. 84. An area can be opened as soon as the map for that area shows that it is access land. No one is suggesting that the whole countryside must be mapped before access can be made available. Amendment No. 84 specifically allows that progressive approach.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for drawing that point to my attention. However, if I continue perhaps he will understand that I am proposing two options as being possible. I believe that going ahead with the fast-track process in relation to mountains and registered commons is one way forward. An alternative may be to map on a regional basis and come forward sequentially region by region.
However, I believe it is important that we learn from the pilot which is currently under way on the mapping process. We should make a decision about how access land is to come forward in reality only once we have learnt the lessons from the pilots. Those results should be available quite quickly. The principle must be that access on the ground is made available to people at a fairly early stage. We should not lock ourselves in by removing the ability to have a fast-track process before we know the exact results of the pilot processes.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness another question before she sits down. Can she reply to the fear expressed by my noble friend Lord Peel that people may go to the top of a hill, come down the other side and assume that they can go on? It may be all right to do so on one side of the hill but one may not have a map to show that it is not all right on the other. Has the noble Baroness considered with her agency the answer to that matter?
Baroness Young of Old Scone: Perhaps I may clarify that I am not talking on behalf of my agency and shall not be doing so throughout the passage of the Bill. That would be inappropriate in terms of the procedures of the House.
However, I am drawing attention to the fact that, if we were to remove the provision for even considering the fast-track process, I believe that we should reduce the flexibility to find the best way forward to introduce faster, on-the-ground access than would be possible without the fast-track process being an option for government. It may be that, having seen the pilot mapping process, government would choose not to take that option. However, I believe that it would be wrong of us to remove the option. I suspect that that would lock us immediately into only one way forward which may be very lengthy.
The Earl of Onslow: Will the noble Baroness clarify something which she just said? She said that she is not speaking on behalf of her agency. If that is the case, is her agency capable of disagreeing with what she said? Does that not in effect put her in an extremely difficult position?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The position is very clear so far as concerns the rules of this House--the Addison rules. My noble friend is not allowed to speak on behalf of her agency. What her agency does is a matter for the agency.
Lord Greaves: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 10 and 21 which concern land over 600 metres. It is fairly clear why it refers to land over 600 metres: that is the nearest very round number to 2,000 feet.
I agreed with what the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, said. She mentioned the question of how the mapping programme is to be undertaken. As we go through our discussions on the Bill, we shall be asking the Government to make it quite clear how they see the mapping timetable taking place. Will there be a national big bang in England and another one in Wales or are we to have regional maps produced at various stages of the mapping process? It has even been suggested to me that maps of different types of access land might be produced separately. That seems to me
As regards land over 600 metres, I had the benefit last week of seeing on a computer screen a map produced by the Ordnance Survey of land over 600 metres in England and Wales. That can quite clearly be produced very simply indeed because there is a 600 metre contour already on its maps. So it can produce a map of that land very easily and I understand that it has already done so.
The truth is that in most of England, there is not much land over 600 metres. I want to know how big an issue this is. For someone like myself who is a mountaineer of sorts, the higher the land, the better. Therefore, land over 600 metres is obviously extremely important. There is obviously a lot of such land in the Lake District and quite a lot in the northern Pennines. There is some in the Pennines generally. But where else is it? I believe that there is one little bit in the south-west on the highest peak in Dartmoor, if Dartmoor has peaks. There is very little indeed elsewhere. We need to know the scale of the problem in relation to such land.
The maps exist. Therefore, the Government know how many areas of land over 600 metres there are in England and Wales. I am not so sure about Wales because my knowledge of it is not as great as it is in relation to England. Where are those areas of land? How many separate plots are there? How many of them are already effectively open to public access? Clearly, most, if not all, in the Lake District will already be open to access, as will many in the Pennines. At present how many remain not open to access?
I do not suggest that the Minister should stand up and wave a map at us now. But those maps exist and I ask the Minister to supply such a map so that we can have a look and make up our minds about this matter.
Finally, how many of those plots of land which are over 600 metres are not accessible at present by rights of way on foot? How many are in the position about which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, was speaking; namely, they cannot be accessed by a legal right of way? I do not know how many there are. There may be none at all. If there are none, we are wasting our time discussing the matter. But we need to know the answers to those practical questions.
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