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Lord Whitty: It is not possible to be as definitive as the amendment would require. The countryside bodies may exclude some excepted land on the maps of open country because it will not fall within the definitions of mountain, moor, heath or down. However, it will not be practicable for the countryside bodies to exclude or show all excepted land. It is unnecessary to give landowners the right to appeal against the failure to show land which is excepted, since, whether or not the

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land is shown as open country, nevertheless it will be excepted from the right of access if it falls under the definition of excepted land.

There is the right to comment and appeal against the provisional maps on the basis that the land does not fall within the appropriate definition. Therefore, although the countryside agencies will have some ability to identify all excepted land, that would be too onerous a requirement and would not be necessary to protect landowners' rights.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: While we would hope to minimise the number of appeals by including that possibility on the face of the Bill, I hear what the Minister says and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 166A:


Page 3, line 35, at end insert--
("(c) may, where the exact boundaries of an area of registered common land are unknown or unclear, determine that the boundaries to be shown are those that appear to them correct, having regard to available information about the area in question and to physical features on the ground.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment deals with what appears to be a technical difficulty. That is that in some cases of registered common land the exact boundaries are not known. That may be because the correct line of the boundary is missing because that section of the map has been lost by the registration authority, or the boundary may be drawn very thickly and it is not entirely clear. That has come to light during the initial piloting of the common land mapping.

As the Bill stands, the countryside agencies have no scope to use their judgment to decide exactly where the boundary should be. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how they can establish exactly where the boundary is. I put the amendment down to clarify what the Government intends should be done in cases like this. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness is right. For example, the initial work conducted by the Countryside Council for Wales on common land mapping has indicated that local registers are--shall we say--of variable quality. In some cases the information is unclear. In other cases it may not be there at all. In those circumstances, the countryside bodies are concerned that they will have no discretion. That is the background to the amendment.

We are confident that in the majority of cases--probably the overwhelming majority--there will be reasonable records on which the countryside bodies can accurately ascertain the boundaries of registered common land. But where the sources are unclear, the countryside bodies will be required to use their best endeavours to establish the boundaries by reference to the information on the register. If they cannot be

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established in that way--for example, if a page of the register is missing--the result must be that the land cannot be shown on the maps as registered common land.

The amendment would give the countryside bodies powers to reconstitute those boundaries on the information available. As the Committee will be aware, we are looking at the whole process of the registration of common land. We believe that that task is best undertaken by the registration authority in the first instance and not by the Countryside Agency in this access context. If necessary, the matter could be considered in conjunction with the results of the current consultation exercise in relation to common land. Where a registration authority prepares a fresh edition of a registered map, the countryside body will be able to include that registered land in its next review.

I understand the reason for the amendment, but it would impose on the Countryside Agency the duty of second-guessing the registration process for common land. That is too onerous and a misdirection of the priorities of the countryside bodies. While that may lead to a few problems, in the vast majority of cases they should stick to what is there in the register and not reinvent what they think should be the real boundaries of the registered common land. That is a matter for the registration process.

4.30 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The Minister's reply does not entirely resolve the issue in my mind. First, there is the question of time-scale. The registration bodies will not act on the same time-scale as the access land comes on stream. Secondly, the Minister seemed to say that where the boundaries are not clear the land could not be mapped. I shall read carefully what the noble Lord said and perhaps come back to the issue at a later stage. This may turn out to be a serious and contentious point in a few places. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Publication of draft maps]:

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 167:


Page 3, line 36, at end insert--
("( ) publish a notice, stating the date that work is starting to prepare a map under section 4, in at least one newspaper circulating in the area where the work is to be undertaken,
( ) invite owners and occupiers of the land affected to forward to the countryside body maps showing the land which they own or manage and any area within that land which they consider to be open country or not, and to provide details of any restriction which they might wish to apply to public access to any such area,").

The noble Lord said: Clause 5 currently provides for representations to be invited on draft maps but does not require the CA and CCW to involve owners in preparing the draft maps; nor does it require the CA and CCW to consult individually those owners and occupiers whose land is included on the maps. The later owners and occupiers are involved in the

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mapping process and the less full the consultation with them, the more likely it is that conflict will arise not only with those mapping the land but also with the countryside bodies implementing the new right. Furthermore, the clause does not invite any representations about possible long-term exclusions or restrictions on access; for example, on safety or environmental grounds. The amendment would tackle those significant deficiencies.

The amendment would require the CA and CCW to advertise the fact that work was under way to prepare draft maps and to invite owners and occupiers to provide details of the land which they own and of what they consider to be access land within that area. The amendment would enable owners to become involved in the mapping process before the draft maps had been prepared. It is vital that owners and occupiers have an opportunity to offer their own views during the preparation of the maps. It is not adequate to consult them only once draft maps have been prepared, especially if surveyors have been crawling all over their land for several months mapping it.

It is not consistent with good regulation for the first indication that an individual has that his land is subject to the right of access to be when the owner hears that a map showing his land is up for comment. Direct involvement in the mapping process can do nothing but build a better informed relationship between those undertaking the mapping and those whose land is being mapped. It is in the interests of all concerned to reduce potential ill feeling among those on whom the new right of access is being imposed.

Rather than require the CA and the CCW to consult all owners in an area before starting work on any map, which would be onerous given the lack of data on land ownership, this amendment simply requires the CA and the CCW to advertise that the map is being prepared and to inform bodies such as the CLA and the NFU so that they can, in turn, advise their members. This approach would be cost-effective and would have the added benefit of providing data on land ownership. Again, that in turn would facilitate liaison with owners once the draft maps had been prepared.

These open and transparent efforts to involve owners and occupiers at an early stage would surely reduce the level of appeals following publication of the provisional access maps and, accordingly, help to hasten the implementation of the new right. Benefits would also be gained from identifying at an early stage, as is required by the amendment, any likely permanent exclusions or restrictions on access--for example, to linear routes which are likely to be sought for land management, conservation or health and safety reasons. For clarity and certainty, such restrictions should be shown on access maps. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We are wholly in agreement with the sentiment behind Amendment No. 167 that public participation in the mapping of open country and registered common land should be

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as full as is practicable and that landowners and occupiers of land affected should be given an adequate opportunity to make representations.

This amendment would require the countryside bodies both to advertise the start of the mapping process in local newspapers and to invite landowners and occupiers to supply details of land which they own and which they believe is or is not open country. The countryside bodies would also be required to invite details of any restrictions which owners or occupiers wished to apply.

I am pleased to be able to tell the Committee that the objectives of this amendment are very much in accordance with the firm intentions of the Countryside Agency. These are reflected in a paper prepared by the agency for a meeting of the National Countryside Access Forum on 26th September, a copy of which was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. This makes it quite clear that the contractors who are charged with the mapping of open country and registered common land will publicise the start of the mapping work locally. The Countryside Agency has confirmed that this will include publishing a suitable notice in one or more local newspapers. But this is only one of the things the agency plans to do to ensure that, so far as is possible, landowners and occupiers know about the mapping exercise. For example, the agency plans to ensure that the local CLA and NFU representatives, rightly identified by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, are given details as early possible. Relevant local authorities, down to parish council level, will also be notified, along with local access forums and user groups.

The agency has also made clear in its paper that owners and other interested parties will be given the opportunity to provide any other information which they consider to be of assistance to the mapping process. Such opportunities for early consultation and dialogue between the countryside bodies, their mapping consultants and those with an interest in the land can only be beneficial in promoting consensus at an early stage on the content of the formal draft and provisional maps.

The amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, would also invite landowners to give notice of their expectations for the issuing of directions to restrict access. Those matters would be better considered once draft or provisional maps have been issued. The reason is simply that the consultation process over maps is about whether land is open country or registered common land, not whether restrictions should apply to that land. We have already said that we shall ensure that there is sufficient opportunity for such restrictions to be put in place before the right of access is brought into effect.

I can assure the noble Lord that we and the countryside bodies are firmly committed to achieving what this amendment seeks. Should it prove necessary further to regulate the process, there is already provision in the Bill under Clause 11 for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to introduce regulations prescribing the manner in which

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maps are to be prepared; what consultation there should be with access authorities and other persons on maps; and the steps to be taken for informing the public of the issue of maps at various stages.

I hope that in the light of these assurances, which I am delighted to be able to give to the noble Lord, he will agree that the procedural matters set out in Amendment No. 167 need not be prescribed on the face of the Bill and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


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