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Earl Peel: I do not disagree with the noble Lord in any way. I have complete sympathy for his argument. I am merely putting another side of the argument because it is important that the Committee realises that the trials can take place in a sympathetic fashion provided that there is co-operation between the club, the owner, English Nature, the local authorities and the police. That is the only point I am making. The noble Lord makes a valid point. Something must be done to stop trials taking place indiscriminately and, like the noble Lord, I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.
Lord Hardy of Wath: I am grateful for my noble friend's initiative. I accept that reputable organisations conduct motorcycling trials which do not cause much bother but my experience of off-road vehicles is that they are devastating. I have received many letters and I am aware of an organisation, Gleam, which is deeply concerned about the situation. One of the right reverend Prelates has spoken to me about appalling damage caused on the Ridgeway as a result of off-road; they are destroying that enormously important environmental facility.
I took a great interest in the problem in my area of South Yorkshire. It is not unique because many communities have suffered enormous nuisance from these vehicles. Last year, I watched such vehicles riding over the nests of plover and skylark and for various reasons we have noted a diminution over the past 12 months. Young people ride on motorbikes, which I am told are sometimes stolen and certainly bought cheaply. The bikes are not necessarily in good condition, not licensed, not insured and the rider is unhelmeted. The damage caused to the young people is likely to be serious. The damage to wildlife and the natural environment, ripping up the ground and destroying it, can be appalling.
Earlier this year in a small community in South Yorkshire people were driven to a state of despair by off-road vehicles in attractive countryside. They went to their parish hall where there was standing room only while hundreds of people complained. That is not unique. A well known broadcaster, whom I have never met, wrote to me to describe his experience. After a period of hard work in the media he decided to visit the
There is a problem as more and more of these vehicles are purchased. The people concerned see films on television which show cars careering around the countryside and believe that they can do it. When I remonstrated with a young motorcyclist, who believed that he could ride his motorcycle at the back of my house, he thought that he should be able to do so because he had nowhere else to go. I told him to pass his test and be a nuisance on the road. I also told him to get a helmet and insurance and have his vehicle inspected for roadworthiness before he rode it.
There is an assumption that if land is open anyone can do anything on it. The damage that has been done to British wildlife in the past few years cries out for attention. The Government must show by the time this legislation is enacted that they are responding to this problem; if not, they will not serve the necessary cause to which they have put their hand.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, not simply because he refers so endearingly to Wales but because what he says accords with one of my observations during Second Reading. I said that I had been astonished by the extent to which in the Bill the emphasis had been shifted from conservation, as it used to be, to access. We should all like to reconcile the two. However, I incline to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that in general access is at the expense of conservation, particularly in terms of bird life and so on.
I am mindful of the situation in Snowdonia. I shall not expand on the situation in that area. However, it is the fact that many birds and other species which were conserved in Snowdonia are now, and in future, very much threatened by the access provisions of the Bill. I endorse the effort in these amendments to re-emphasise conservation and ensure that that is a major consideration.
I understand the point made by my noble friend Lord Peel. These events can be organised in a way that is pleasing to those who participate in them and does no harm. It is important that such events should be properly organised and authorised and that the police are informed, as the second amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, suggests. If there is to be access and such events are allowed--I do not see how they can be prevented--they should be properly authorised. I reassert, however, that conservation of wild species and so on must be the primary consideration.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I welcome the fact that the noble Lord highlights what is undoubtedly a problem in special areas of landscape. Very often they are hilly and bumpy areas in which it
Lord Williams of Elvel: Perhaps I may add a gloss to the remarks of the noble Baroness. Certainly, in Wales--it is perhaps true also in England--if there is no crossing of rights of way the local authority has no locus to give approval or otherwise to these events.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: What I meant was that planning permission would not be needed if events occurred on fewer than 28 days a year. The noble Lord is right, there would be no authority. I agree with the spirit behind the amendment, but I would highlight that it is therefore incumbent on local authorities to provide somewhere where events can take place. It is usually young people who take part in the events and they enjoy this kind of activity. If provision can be made for this activity it will be worthwhile. I appreciate it is difficult. I spent some time on this issue with a trial-biking group.
Lord Williams of Elvel: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness again. All land, as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said, is owned. There is a landowner. Unless the local authority happens to be the landowner, it is not for the local authority to provide facilities for such events. All land being owned, it is up to the owner of the land to decide whether or not he or she will provide such facilities. As the law presently stands, that is not a function of the local authority.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The noble Lord is right, there is not a duty on the local authority to provide somewhere for the events. But given the pressure for local authorities to provide facilities for young people--trial-biking is a sought after facility--they need to address that issue. Certainly where I live, it would not be good enough simply to ban it without providing any alternative whatever in the interests of nature conservation, which is worthwhile where there are sites which need protection.
I should like to reflect a little on comments made by my noble friend Lord Peel and by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I suggest that this boils down to the management of access and to the management of land.
All land is owned by someone, as we recently discovered when debating common land. There is room for some kind of an amendment here because when quads and motorbikes are not managed they are a serious nuisance and are liable to do serious damage to conservation areas and to wildlife. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, in particular referred to these
However, the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough--I shall take his name in vain, despite the fact that he is not in his place--has a wonderful wild estate in West Tyrone. As farming is worth a minus figure, he has moved into other ways of making money out of his property. He combines snipe and wildfowl shooting, walking and all that goes with that, with running corporate events for major companies. People come from England and all over to take part in them. He, by proper and skilful management and much work, runs these events over what in this country would be access land. He is able to protect his wildlife and ensure that year on year he has the kind of wildlife he wants for people to enjoy when walking and the kind he wants for sport, for people to shoot. Also he organises these events.
I agree strongly with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I was on the recreation committee for the Sports Council in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland we have enormous enthusiasm for motor sports. Noble Lords will be aware of the number of Formula One drivers and champions of one kind or another--whether motor bike riders or motor car drivers--that we have in Northern Ireland. That does not just happen. The local authorities have taken these sports seriously and have made areas available wherever possible--in disused quarries, at disused airfields and in all kinds of other places. They have used a good deal of imagination and have spent money. It is probably central government money, but they have found it. They have made available these areas, which are openly available. My plumber, who is a good friend of mine, is a leading go-kart driver. Some years ago he asked me to drive his go-kart. The track is on part of a disused airfield. It is properly managed and is open to all kinds of people. It is safe to drive go-karts there or many other things.
While I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has a real point--I have a great deal of sympathy with it--I hope that the Minister will have gleaned from around the Committee a fair amount of advice on the direction in which the Government might go on this very serious issue.
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