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Earl Peel moved Amendment No. 8:



(" . Woodland or forest which is fenced against access land which adjoins or surrounds it.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Bill provides for a right of access to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land but it does not provide a right of access to woodland. The Government were strongly advised by the Forestry Commission, the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales to adopt a voluntary approach in improving public access to woodland. That is reflected in the provision for voluntary dedication of land to access in Clause 16.

However, there appears to be a lack of clarity, which must be overcome, about the treatment of woodland which either regenerates naturally on access land or is planted on such land before or after the new right comes into effect. As in general the Bill does not provide a right of access to woodland, it should follow that areas of woodland within parcels of access land should not be mapped as access land and that access land which subsequently becomes woodland--whether by natural regeneration or planting--should cease to be access land. It is not clear whether or not that will be the case. The best way to make the position of woodland clear would be to make it excepted land under Schedule 1 and the amendment is designed to achieve just that.

On Report, the Minister was asked whether the right of access would extend to common land which was wooded. He said:


    "If it is woodland, which is not part of the increased right of access under the Bill unless it is voluntarily dedicated by the landowner, I imagine that the Bill would not give general access to it".--[Official Report, Commons, 13/6/00; col 807.]

If that is the case with common land covered by woodland, I suggest that it must be the same for any access land covered by woodland.

I accept that it would be impractical and undesirable to exclude access from small clumps of trees which have perhaps regenerated or been planted--that is why the amendment deals only with fenced woodland--but appropriate planting and natural regeneration should be encouraged. Indeed, English Nature was recently active in the North of England, involving itself with owners and occupiers to try to encourage such woodland on the edge or moorland. It has been most successful in that.

Furthermore, it should be realised that woodland is important for certain biodiversity action plan species, in particular the black grouse. Again, English Nature has been actively involved in trying to enhance that species through proper planting schemes. It should also be remembered that many woodland areas have been planted for opportunities for shooting. It is true to say that a large percentage of woodland has been developed with that specifically in mind.

I am concerned because any measures in the Bill which discourage small appropriate woodland planting would be a great shame. I suspect that if access provisions in the Bill were allowed to include

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woodland, much of it would cease. Therefore, I ask the Minister to consider the amendment. I hope that he agrees that it would be inappropriate for woodland on access areas to be included; in other words, the land should be exempt. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Peel, is right in saying that woodland is not added to mountain, moor, heath or down. In general terms, it is not covered by the Bill. However, it is possible that maps of open country could include small areas of woodland if they are part of a larger area of mountain, moor, heath or down. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said in Committee, it would be a matter of discretion for the countryside body whether to exclude such pockets of woodland. My noble friend also pointed out that it is most unlikely that a fenced plantation would be mapped as part of open country. However, it would not be appropriate to except access from a naturally occurring woodland simply because, for example, it is fenced to exclude livestock.

The noble Earl, Lord Peel, made a valid point about biodiversity but the conservation provisions in the Bill should be introduced in order to protect biodiversity and conservation. Naturally occurring woodland is increasingly fenced to exclude livestock but that is not the same issue. There is no intention to extend the right of access to woodland by stealth. One is concerned only with access to mountain, moor, heath, down--some of which may be encroached upon by small areas of woodland--and common land, which historically is often woodland. The question is whether the woodland occurs naturally, as one would expect on common land.

I am not convinced that this amendment with its emphasis on fencing is appropriate in terms of its effect or necessity or the definition of the threshold between land which is open country and land which is not. I hope that the noble Earl will not press his amendment.

Earl Peel: My Lords, I received the answer that I expected. Perhaps I should take comfort from the fact that there will be flexibility. I understand the point which the Minister makes. Perhaps the noble Lord's most telling point is that there is no intent to extend access by stealth. I never thought that there was such an intent, but it is nice to know that that is the position. Having heard the Minister's response, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 9:


    Page 63, line 9, at end insert ("which curtilage shall be deemed to include all land within 30 metres of a building which is a dwelling-house").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this amendment turns to a different topic. Schedule 1 excludes from access land buildings and their curtilage. One often has a dwelling-house which has a garden or curtilage on one or more sides, but is not protected on its remaining sides and open land comes

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virtually to the door. In Committee a number of noble Lords expressed serious concern that it would be very disturbing for people who lived in such a house if, particularly at night, those who exercised the right of access came right up to the house. The aim of the amendment is to provide a minimum area of protection on all sides of the dwelling-house without detracting from the size of the curtilage.

My amendment proposes that the area of protection should be 30 metres, whereas Amendment No. 11 in the name of the Government suggests 20 metres. I assume that, in his customary spirit of compromise, the Minister will suggest 25 metres. However, I shall weaken my bargaining position by admitting that if the noble Lord does not do so I shall not divide the House for the sake of 10 metres. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, am I correct in believing that if the Minister speaks to his amendment I cannot make a contribution?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, to assist the House, if any noble Lord wishes to speak to a group of amendments he should do so. I want to clarify the position. I believe that if the Minister moves a lead amendment other noble Lords may speak thereafter. I understand that the noble Baroness wishes to speak now.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, if I wait for the Minister to speak, I cannot speak myself. I understand that I can speak. I am trying to be terribly correct. I rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Viscount. As the noble Viscount will not persuade the Minister to accept 30 metres, I understand that he is content to accept 20 metres. In rising to support the amendment, I thank the Minister for tabling a government amendment which deals with a problem which was debated earlier.

I should like to clarify two matters. Amendment No. 11 in the name of the Government seeks to insert paragraph 2A, presumably after paragraph 2. The provision as it now stands deals with,


    "Land covered by buildings or the curtilage of such land".

Presumably, the Government intend to include land within 20 metres of a dwelling. I seek clarification on the difference between paragraph 2A and what stands in the Bill now.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, can we not hear the Minister speak to his amendment before we speak?

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I intervene briefly. We have a good number of amendments to deal with and I do not want the Minister to fail to complete his century before close of play. This amendment is a good example of where the Bill is lacking in certainty, and clarification can be achieved. That has been the theme of the whole debate at Report stage so far, and no doubt we shall return to it en masse in relation to other issues. The Bill as it stands makes no specific reference to dwelling-houses in the

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excepted land, although it refers to tramways, golf courses and what have you. Obviously, it is important that those who live in the country are clear as to where access land around their dwelling-houses begins and ends. The government amendment before us is excellent. I would have preferred 30 metres, but I am content with 20 metres.

As to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I am content with the way in which the Government have presented the amendment with a specific heading to deal with dwelling-houses, leaving other buildings to be dealt with separately. That is an advantage from the point of view of presentation. In any event, I believe that, except for those people who do crosswords, the great majority of the population do not know what a curtilage is. The government amendment is clear and meets the point, and I welcome it.


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