Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Bridges: If I heard the Minister correctly, he said that the purpose of subsection (4) of the new clause was to enable local authorities to take all such supporting action as is necessary for the purposes of conservation. I believe that that is a form of words much superior to that which now appears in the amendment. I believe that if the Minister reconsidered the matter and introduced his own words later it would be an improvement.

Lord Whitty: We never have closed minds. On the other hand, the expression that we are considering has been understood since 1949. One would have to think carefully about the form of words. If one tried to

16 Oct 2000 : Column 794

provide for a situation in which a conservation board had been created, that would be consequential on the next group of amendments, not here. As I have said, a conservation board will be established in only a few AONBs.

Lord Bridges: The noble Lord is too modest. The Minister has introduced an improvement. I find particular difficulty with the words "expedient" and "enhancing", not least because I live in a parish which was informed by the planning authority that it was to be enhanced, with the most dreadful results. That is an unfortunate word to use in this context.

Baroness Byford: At this stage perhaps the best course to take is to read what has been said in Hansard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 524A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 524, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 524 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 525:


    After Clause 71, insert the following new clause--

Establishment of conservation boards

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State (as respects England) or the National Assembly for Wales (as respects Wales) may--
(a) in the case of any existing area of outstanding natural beauty, or
(b) in connection with the designation of any area as an area of outstanding natural beauty,
by order establish a board (in this Part referred to as "a conservation board") to carry out in relation to that area the functions conferred on such a board by or under this Part.
(2) Schedule (Conservation boards) (which relates to the constitution of conservation boards) has effect.
(3) Where the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales considers it expedient for either of the purposes mentioned in section (General purposes and powers)(1), an order under subsection (1) may--
(a) provide for the transfer to the conservation board to which the order relates of any of the functions of local authorities, so far as relating to the area of outstanding natural beauty in question, or
(b) provide for any function of a local authority, so far as relating to the area of outstanding natural beauty in question, to be exercisable concurrently by the local authority and by the conservation board.
(4) An order under subsection (1) may make further provision as to the constitution and administration of the conservation board to which it relates, including provision with respect to--
(a) the appointment of members,
(b) the removal and disqualification of members,
(c) the conduct of members,
(d) proceedings of the board,
(e) the appointment of staff,
(f) consultation with other public bodies,
(g) records and documents of the board,
(h) the provision of information by the board, and
(i) complaints of maladministration.
(5) Before making an order under subsection (1) in relation to an area of outstanding natural beauty in England, the Secretary of State shall consult--
(a) the Agency, and

16 Oct 2000 : Column 795


(b) every local authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or part of the area of outstanding natural beauty.
(6) Before making an order under subsection (1) in relation to an area of outstanding natural beauty in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales shall consult--
(a) the Council, and
(b) every local authority whose area consists of or includes the whole or part of the area of outstanding natural beauty.
(7) An order under subsection (1) which amends or revokes a previous order under that subsection establishing a conservation board--
(a) may be made only after consultation with the conservation board to which it relates (as well as the consultation required by subsection (5) or (6)), and
(b) in the case of an order revoking a previous order, may provide for the winding up of the board.
(8) Subject to any order under subsection (9), where there is a variation of the area of an area of outstanding natural beauty for which there is or is to be a conservation board, the area of outstanding natural beauty for which that board is or is to be the conservation board shall be taken, as from the time when the variation takes effect, to be that area as varied.
(9) Where provision is made for the variation of the area of an area of outstanding natural beauty for which there is or is to be a conservation board, the Secretary of State (as respects England) or the National Assembly for Wales (as respects Wales) may by order make such transitional provision as he or it thinks fit with respect to--
(a) any functions which, in relation to any area that becomes part of the area of outstanding natural beauty, are by virtue of the variation to become functions of that conservation board; and
(b) any functions which, in relation to any area that ceases to be part of the area of outstanding natural beauty, are by virtue of the variation to become functions of a person other than that conservation board.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 525, I should like to speak also to the other amendments in the group. These amendments are of greater substance than the consolidated amendments in the previous group, but no doubt some of the same arguments will arise again. These amendments enable the Secretary of State and the National Assembly to establish conservation boards for individual AONBs. They would be required to consult the agencies and all affected local authorities. We would expect a significant level of local support to be demonstrated before establishing any board.

There has been consistent and widespread support for the introduction of this provision since the Countryside Commission first presented its advice on the future protection of AONBs to the Government in 1998. All developments since then have reflected the reaction to that. I emphasise that the Government does not see a conservation board as the right solution for every AONB area. We are not interested in imposing conservation boards where they are not wanted locally. They are likely to be most appropriate for some of the larger AONBs which cross a number of local authority boundaries. We expect the first moves to establish a conservation board to come from those which manage a particular AONB at present.

The boards would have two main purposes as set out mainly in Amendment No. 526: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB; and, in

16 Oct 2000 : Column 796

recognition that conservation takes place to help both local people and visitors to enjoy the AONB, a duty to increase public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the AONB. The long-standing "Sandford principle" in the context of the national parks would apply so that, in the event of a conflict between the two purposes, conservation would take precedence.

The detailed functions of a conservation board would be set out in its establishment order. The functions transferred from the existing structure would have to be relevant to the AONB designation and the overarching purposes of AONB conservation boards. We have in mind activities such as managing rights of way, providing picnic sites and car parks and carrying out the usual countryside management services undertaken by local authorities. The Secretary of State is required to consult all relevant local authorities. Any establishment order, as was said earlier, will follow the affirmative Parliamentary procedure.

The conservation boards would have duties towards the economic and social well-being of their local communities similar to those of national park authorities.

The basic membership arrangements which we propose are set out in the schedule in Amendment No. 539. That provides for local authorities to appoint at least 40 per cent of the members. The way in which this would work for an individual board is left to its establishment order. The remaining members are to be appointed by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales. In England, where we have parish members--for example, on national park authorities--the Secretary of State's appointees would also include parish members, who would make up at least 20 per cent of the total membership. The remaining appointments by the Secretary of State would cover a variety of interests, including conservation, land management and countryside recreation.

Amendment No. 530 makes provision for grants to be made to the conservation boards. Local authorities may also be expected to contribute, as they do to the management of their AONBs now. But there is no provision for conservation boards to be given levying powers as some Members of the Committee are advocating.

Many Members of the Committee will be aware that the Government have already increased considerably the budget going to AONBs via the Countryside Agency. I anticipate that we shall be able to announce a further increase later this year. I am pleased to say that my department, the Countryside Agency and the AONBs' association are working closely together to agree a method of allocating funds from the Countryside Agency to every AONB in England.

I should refer briefly to Amendment No. 527A, which replaces Amendment No. 527. The sole changes are to insert references in subsections (3) and (4) to provide that those two subsections apply only to orders made by the Secretary of State, and not to those

16 Oct 2000 : Column 797

made by the National Assembly for Wales. The two subsections deal only with Westminster procedures. So that is a tidying up of my original amendment. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 525A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 525, not moved.]

10.45 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved, as an Amendment to Amendment No. 525, Amendment No. 525AA:


    Line 15, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 525AA seeks to remove paragraph (a) of subsection (3) from the Bill. Subsection (3) states:


    "Where the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales considers it expedient for either of the purposes mentioned in section (General purposes and powers)(1), an order under subsection (1) may--(a) provide for the transfer to the conservation board to which the order relates of any of the functions of local authorities, so far as relating to the area of outstanding natural beauty in question".

We have had some debate about whether or not it is the intention that planning powers should be transferred to conservation boards. This particular paragraph clearly makes it plain that they can be. However, it is not only planning powers: one could conceive of highways interests also being transferred. Given the scale of activities like fly tipping and the problems that there are with waste nowadays, one could even conceive of some powers in relation to waste being transferred.

I find myself wondering whether that is really what we want or whether it is desirable. If we simply take that little paragraph out, we are left with the preamble which I read. It would then state that an order may,


    "provide for any function of a local authority, so far as relating to the area of outstanding natural beauty in question, to be exercisable concurrently by the local authority and by the conservation board".

It seems to me that that is the preferable and proper way of going forward in this particular matter.

I look forward to what the Minister has to say on this point. He has on occasion, if I have been listening with sufficient attention, given the impression that powers are not to be transferred to conservation boards, but the fact is that this part of the new clause makes that possible. We do not think that the possibility is helpful and we do not think that it takes the Bill forward. We think it would be better to remove the provision. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page