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Baroness Nicol: Perhaps I may make two brief points. First, with regard to Amendment No. 485, it is my understanding that, prior to the serving of a management scheme, there will have been full discussions with all the parties concerned in pursuit of a voluntary scheme. It is probably not necessary to go through all that again. Certainly, all parties concerned will be well aware of what is being proposed.
My second comment is in relation to Amendment No. 486. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, admitted, we have covered this ground. It is perfectly clear that the power which he seeks is already available to the councils. Therefore, I cannot see the need for the amendment.
Earl Peel: I accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said. So far as concerns Amendment No. 485, I am quite certain that she is right and that the proper consultation process will, indeed, go through. If that is not the case, then clearly it should be, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that.
I believe that my noble friend's Amendment No. 484, which would remove the words "if they think fit", would cause considerable difficulties for English Nature. Having to go back through every single site of special scientific interest would place an enormous and onerous task on that body. Having had the pleasure of
My other point is that, if we are to remove the words "if they think fit", surely the whole of the SSSI would have to be brought into the management plan and not only, as the Bill stands at present, that part of it which is available to English Nature and CCW.
Lord Hardy of Wath: I endorse the point made by my noble friend Lady Nicol. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that his Amendment No. 486 may be too restrictive. The authority should be able to seek the advice of the people he mentioned. However, in some areas it should also be possible to contact for advice local organisations or individuals who are involved in conservation. As an example, I can think of a man in my own area who, until he died last year, knew more about botany in our county than anyone else. He was actually a dentist. He was not an expert in land management; nor was he involved in forestry or farming, although he knew a great deal about the subjects.
However, if there is to be a right to seek advice from farmers, foresters and land managers, the same right should also exist to contact individuals who are knowledgeable about a particular area. It is important to obtain their advice as well, as it may be more valuable than that which is forthcoming from people with expertise in the areas mentioned in the amendment.
Lord Skelmersdale: I believe that we are getting into a bit of a muddle. After all, the ecology of an area depends entirely on the farming methods of that area. Therefore, if English Nature quite rightly wants to prevent a new activity taking place, this is the right way to go about it. Unfortunately, in some parts of the country--my own in the south west being one, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will be able to confirm--the staff of English Nature are not always as sensitive and as diplomatic as they might be. They give the impression to farmers that they are trying to turn back the clock and produce a different, older ecology than that for which they are enforcing SSSI status.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: I wish to make two brief comments about this group of amendments. The first may be of help to the Committee with regard to management schemes. I believe that we should be clear that under the Bill management schemes will be quite a long way down the road. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was right to say that management is important to SSSIs. However, management schemes come into play only if there has been a failure to gain voluntary agreement. Indeed, voluntary agreement is by far the most common solution in relation to the management of SSSIs. Therefore, I hope that it will be seen that management schemes will be required only where there is a failure to agree.
I also want to make a point regarding the management of SSSIs being due entirely to the farming regime. A large number of SSSIs are dependent on farming management but a large number are also dependent on a whole variety of land uses--not least development use, the activities of statutory undertakers of water companies, and a variety of different activities other than farming. Therefore, although farming is extremely important, I should not want to say that the responsibility for SSSIs lies entirely with farmers. It is true that, in terms of operations on SSSIs, at present agriculture is by far the most damaging practice.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I can perhaps see a reason for further consideration of Amendment No. 485 because, although management schemes are a fairly long way down the road, it is reasonable that the "Council shall consult" the owners before such schemes are drafted. However, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, whether it is the intention of Amendment No. 483C that English Nature should consult on every site, including those that are satisfactory.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not want to undermine the importance of management schemes, although, as my noble friend Lady Young said, they are a long way down the road. The vast majority of SSSIs are dealt with by voluntary agreements rather than by management schemes as provided for in the Bill. However, they make an important contribution to the new scheme for SSSIs. They increase the emphasis on securing positive management, which will ensure that the site is in favourable condition.
However, it has generally been made clear in the debate that we cannot accept Amendment No. 483C, which would require management schemes in every case by inserting "shall" instead of "may". It may not always be necessary or desirable to have a management scheme on every site, whether the site is for farming practice or for the other uses to which my noble friend Lady Young referred. Indeed, a geological site which is simply a rock face may need no active management at all. Therefore, we have left the agency with the option to decide whether it considers it fit to impose a management scheme. To that extent, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale.
However, I was prepared, and am prepared, to accept Amendment No. 484, although the noble Earl, Lord Peel thinks those words should be retained. I am advised that the words "if they think fit" merely add emphasis to the permissive nature of the word "may". On reflection, it does not seem to us that those words are necessary. It does not mean that that could be applied only to the whole of an SSSI. It could apply to a part of an SSSI.
I turn now to Amendment No. 485 which deals with consultation. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has correctly interpreted the Bill and that is confirmed by what my noble friend Lady Nicol said. The Bill already requires a full and open consultative process--that is in Section 28H(3). The relevant owners must be consulted about the scheme before the notice is served. That acknowledges the value of their expertise and ensures that they have the opportunity to influence the drafting of the scheme to reflect their views on the appropriate management of the land.
But they will be given a further opportunity to make representations once the notice has been served, and that is in Section 28H(7). I do not see what Amendment No. 485 adds to that process. We have deliberately taken full account of land managers' views at all stages.
As regards Amendment No. 486, it is already open to the agency, where it considers it needs to draw on sources of expertise which are not available among its staff or council members, to seek specialist advice from elsewhere, including the appropriate use of consultants. I say that in the widest possible sense. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there may well be local expertise which is not available to the agency, although it has expertise at national and local level. I agree with my noble friend Lord Hardy that there may be people of whom one would never think whose expertise may be valuable. However, I should not write dentists into the Bill to take account of that point.
In any event, that power includes advice on land management and that is made clear in Section 132(2) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. We shall encourage that practice wherever it is necessary and helpful. The agencies will ensure that staff dealing with SSSIs have the necessary training and access to guidance and good practice.
I turn now to Amendment No. 487. I acknowledge that the list of information which is given in the amendment is useful. But much of it will already have been available separately to landowners or occupiers, some of it, although not all of it, in the notification procedure. To repeat it here would simply burden them with more paperwork and give rise to complaints.
The management scheme is intended to be a clear, detailed and workable scheme for management of the land. It is put forward in the interests of building positive partnerships so that everybody is aware of how the nature conservation interests may best be conserved. It may include clarification of the operations which may damage some or all of the site, particularly where it addresses a single landholding within a larger SSSI and it may usefully cover consents for activities which the land manager may undertake.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The Minister says that statutory management schemes are a long way down the road and that voluntary schemes will be the norm. He indicated that the statutory schemes will come into force only when it is not possible to reach agreement. I can understand that.
But will the Minister tell the Committee what proportion of the acreage or hectarage of SSSIs the Government anticipate will be involved in statutory schemes? They must have thought about that because of the costs involved and so on. I should just like a picture of what will be the impact of the statutory schemes. Can he give the Committee any information in relation to that?
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