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The Earl of Carnarvon: I have listened carefully to the Minister. I have also spoken to him on the subject. It is important to remember that in the case of the New Forest the whole of the potential national park is within one district. That is one of the biggest districts in England, with 175,000 people, which is not a unitary authority. It is incredible to have an elected district council with planning powers that deal with only three areas of its district while the majority of the land is

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within the perambulation of the new national park. I listened carefully to the Minister who gave me every hope that in future this matter will be carefully considered. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 [Power of countryside bodies to enter into management agreements]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 543:


    Page 46, line 13, at end insert--


("(f) as respects land in any area of outstanding natural beauty designated under section (Designation of areas) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for which a conservation board has been established under section (Establishment of conservation boards) of that Act, that board.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 72, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 543ZA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 543ZB:


    After Clause 72, insert the following new clause--

("Town or village greens
DEFINITION OF TOWN OR VILLAGE GREEN

.--(1) In section 22(1) of the Commons Registration Act 1965, for the definition of "town or village green" there is substituted--
""town or village green" means--
(a) land which has been allotted by or under any Act for the exercise or recreation of the inhabitants of any locality;
(b) land on which the inhabitants of any locality have a customary right to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes; or
(c) land on which the inhabitants of any locality or residential area have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes as of right for any period of not less than twenty years ending after 31st July 1990, whether or not other persons have used the land for like purposes."
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall allow the register of town or village greens to be amended by virtue of section 13(b) of the Commons Registration Act 1965 to include any land which on the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent was lawfully covered by a building or its curtilage.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 543ZB takes the Committee back to the first day of its deliberations and the right of the public to recreation on access land. The amendment is not concerned with wide open spaces but small local areas of land. The amendment seeks to protect those areas which are being destroyed by a loophole in the Commons Registration Act 1965. When this matter was raised in the other place the Government found one or two reasons for rejecting the amendment. The fact is that the Government are keen on the creation of new areas of open space and have allocated some £12.8 million from the New Opportunities Fund to create about 200 new areas of open space in urban and rural communities. Therefore, it is strange to leave a loophole which may destroy about 50 village greens.

The loophole works as follows. For an open space to qualify as a green most people who use it must live nearby. Therefore, if too many people from outside the

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locality use a village green--they may come for the day or for picnics--they dilute the right of local people to register it. Therefore, an attempt to register that green will fail. Villagers and locals who want to register that land as a green, a status which protects it from development, must present a map which shows the land in question and the area within which people who use the green live. The map must show that there is a recognisable community living close to the land. However, some greens are now in semi-urban areas. So that can be extremely difficult to achieve.

We do not believe that when the Commons Registration Act was drafted it was intended to contain a loophole which would allow greens to be destroyed. The courts have also ruled that the 20 years referred to in the existing definition must be the period immediately before the application to register. Therefore, if use of the land by local people had suddenly been suspended without warning, for example, because a developer had erected a fence and patrolled the land with security guards, there could be no registration. There would be no time in which to gather the necessary evidence of recreational use and submit a convincing application.

The amendment seeks to close the loophole and, for the first time, replace the faulty definition with something that enables greens to be protected for all future generations within the spirit of the original legislation and the Government's intention in this Bill. The subsequent amendment deals with the Long Title, should Amendment No. 543ZB be accepted. I beg to move.

2.30 a.m.

Baroness Nicol: I rise briefly to support the amendment. We have become aware recently of how much more important than ever these greens have become, particularly in urban or semi-urban areas. They are constantly being lost. I do not wish to detain the Committee long, but I have a list of five which have been lost within the past year. At that rate, obviously the destruction--that is the word for it--of these greens becomes very important indeed for local people. I hope the Government will look kindly on this amendment.

Lord Whitty: I shall look relatively kindly on it. That is the best the Committee will get out of me at this time of night. We share the view that there is a need to tackle the difficulties in registering land and retaining common land in town or village greens. We share the wish behind the amendment of the noble Baroness to clarify the definition in the Commons Registration Act 1965. The Government have clearly signalled their intention to address these issues. We have tried to reflect on the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, in so far as it affects the significance of use by outsiders and the circumscribing of a satisfactory community to justify a claim that the land has been a town or village green. There may be some difficulty as to precisely how we do that.

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Moreover, there are some difficulties about the reference to the period of 20 years' use up to 1990. That clearly recedes as time goes on, and it may be difficult to reverse entirely the processes. So there are some complexities about the amendment. I am happy to agree to consider tabling our own amendment on Report. I hope the noble Baroness will be satisfied with that, at least for now.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister very much for that reply. I look forward to seeing the amendment that he intends to put forward. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 543ZC:


    After Clause 72, insert the following new clause--

NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK BROADS

(" . In exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land in Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, any relevant authority shall have regard to the purposes specified in section 2(1) of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 543ZC is a fairly small amendment which seeks to bring the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads authority into line with the other ten national parks. At the moment, the authority is somewhat different. This amendment was tabled in the Commons. The Government were relatively sympathetic to it. It seems anomalous that the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads authority has different treatment. It clearly wishes not to have different treatment. Unless there is a good reason to continue the difference, it would seem reasonable to make sure that it is treated in the same way as the rest of its family of national parks. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Last Wednesday I undertook, in response to Amendment No. 453 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, to consider bringing forward on Report a government amendment which would require relevant authorities, when doing anything in, or so as to affect land in, an AONB to have regard to the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty. That would parallel the similar duty which is applied by the 1995 Environment Act--when doing anything in, or so as to affect land in, a national park, relevant authorities must have regard to the purposes for which the national parks are designated.

It would not be right to exclude the Broads, as the other members of the family of designated landscapes, from the application of a similar duty on relevant authorities to have regard to its purposes. I therefore can give the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, the same undertaking that I gave the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, last week, and undertake to consider

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bringing forward a government amendment on Report having the effect she seeks. I therefore ask her to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for her helpful reply and look forward to seeing the amendment on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 73 [Wales]:


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