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Earl Peel: I want to speak briefly to Amendment No. 163, to which I attach a great deal of importance. Once again, a main weakness of the Bill is highlighted. How on earth will the public be made aware of the information relating to access areas, closure orders, by-laws and so forth? We have been round that course many times and the Minister is now well aware of our deep concerns about this aspect of the Bill.

The importance of this amendment is that at least it provides the opportunity for information to be made available through access points, and that the access points where the information could be provided would be marked on the map.

Did the Minister at an earlier stage in this debate say that he was prepared to bring back an amendment on Report which would impose a duty on the access authority to provide information at the access points? Would the Minister expand on the level of information available at those access points?

As my noble friend Lord Luke said, these access points must be convenient for the public otherwise they will not be used and obviously land management needs must be taken into account.

I reiterate what my noble friend Lord Luke said. Access points must be provided at an early stage on the draft maps to allow proper debate to take place, which will speed up the whole process of mapping. If that does not take place wrangles and disagreement will ensue at the last moment, which will not be conducive to a satisfactory conclusion.

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It is hoped that the Minister will support this proposal, but I would ask him to confirm whether he plans to bring back an amendment to impose a duty on the access authorities to provide information and what that information will be.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Amendment No. 164 is grouped with these amendments. We sympathise with much of what the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, particularly with regard to the early resolution of recommended access points because that will enable the planning of such things as car parks to start. It will not be easy for the access authorities tasked with that to cope with a vast number all at once. As other noble Lords have said, the earlier it starts the better.

Where we probably part company is that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, states that the maps,

    "shall identify at least one specific location".

Our wording is more permissive and states:

    "may determine to show recommended points of access".

The Countryside Agency itself states:

    "We think that maps of access land should show information points and guaranteed means of access, and it is our intention to do this wherever the necessary information is available".

Obviously it thinks that it is possible and it intends to do it, but making it mandatory will restrict the ability to vary access points where that is appropriate. I can think of cases where it may be appropriate to vary access for all sorts of reasons. In the meantime, what does the Minister say on this matter?

Lord Whitty: In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Earl, Lord Peel, let me say that I indicated at least in broad terms earlier that in the light of these amendments and other arguments I am persuaded that the Bill should place a specific duty on the countryside agencies to ensure that the public are informed of the location, extent and means of access to access land, and that will build on the work already started by the National Countryside Access Forum on identifying main access and main information points. Means of access, whether they are subject to the formal arrangements in Chapter III or are simply existing stiles and existing gates, will be exactly those points which will provide convenient access for walkers and which take account of the need to manage the land. Subject to further consideration, I propose to come forward with a suitable amendment on Report.

However, in respect of the amendments before us now, I would make two preliminary points. First, there is a difference between recommended access points and mandatory access points. As I have made clear at earlier stages, I am not in favour of mandatory access points.

Secondly, there is a distinction between the statutory maps and the operational maps on which walkers and others will have the detailed information on access to particular areas of land, basically something similar to the Ordnance Survey maps. The

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statutory mapping process is limited to the boundaries of open country or registered common land. The provision of other information is a separate issue and will appear on a much more detailed map.

Amendment No. 163 would require the countryside bodies to identify access points and show them on the statutory map. However, because the statutory maps are fixed and permanent and access points may vary over a period for land management and other reasons--10 years may elapse before a review--even if one could do it, it would not be sensible to require that to be part of the statutory map. It would also add delay to the mapping process.

We believe that Amendment No. 164 is a better amendment. It proposes a discretionary power for mapping bodies to show access points, which is a more reasonable approach. However, that also has problems. How would the points of access arise, and what would happen if the landowners did not agree with the mapping authority's view and so on? Under that amendment we would have to consider the process as well as the outcome. If we have a system which ends up with a further right of appeal as provided by Amendment No. 177, the bureaucratic process will be longer than we need. However, these amendments and the arguments advanced by the Committee persuade us that we need to do something in this area and we intend to come forward with proposals at Report stage.

Earl Peel: Before the Minister sits down, does he accept that these access points should appear on the draft maps to allow proper consultation to take place? Perhaps the Minister dealt with that point, in which case I missed it.

Lord Whitty: The statutory maps will identify the access land. There will then be a separate, in part perhaps parallel, process of identifying the recommended or preferred range of access points. Most of that will be a separate discussion which will take place in local access forums, among local landowners and so on. The formal statutory maps will not mark every single access point, but we expect that maps such as those produced by Ordnance Survey which are used by walkers and others who seek access will show the access points which emerge from that consultative and, it is hoped, consensual process.

Lord Greaves: I believe the point that is being made is that someone must collect the information on access points. Is it intended that, in addition to producing the statutory maps from the information provided, the Countryside Agency will also be responsible for collecting other information which may be produced on parallel maps, overlays or whatever?

Lord Whitty: There should be a specific duty on the Countryside Agency to ensure that the public are informed. Obviously, that requires a mapping process, or at least the conveying of that information to

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Ordnance Survey and other authoritative maps. That is a responsibility of the Countryside Agency, subject to the process of consultation.

Lord Greaves: Therefore, would it be possible for the Countryside Agency to make available such information as it had on these other matters at the time that it produced the provisional maps?

Lord Whitty: The matter will not necessarily have been settled in all areas at that point.

Lord Luke: I am most grateful to the Minister for his response, particularly his indication that he will think about this again and return with further proposals on access points. I am also interested to hear the Minister say that progress is already being made in establishing some of these access points. Does the Minister have any further information on that particular subject?

Lord Whitty: I do not say that progress has been made in specific locations but that the National Countryside Access Forum has already begun to address the issue of how to go about identifying the locations. Although that is a preliminary step, that process has already started.

Lord Luke: I am grateful to the Minister. I look forward to seeing the further proposals. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 164 and 165 not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 166:

Page 3, line 35, at end insert (", and
( ) may determine to show excepted land").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 166 addresses the question of whether excepted land should be shown on the maps. When moving his amendment, Amendment No. 159, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that the public should not be misled in trying to get to islands of land that they could not use. He addressed small areas of land. In the amendment we have had regard to mineral workings and so on where for many years in the future that land--which may, and very frequently does, abut access land--is most unlikely to be suitable for public access. If it is mapped as open access land, the public will waste their time going there and be very disappointed. It seems reasonable to allow the discretion to map such land as excepted. I beg to move.

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