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Lord Whitty: My Lords, the intention of the amendment is to remove a sensible discretion of the Countryside Agency in its mapping process so that land which is mapped can be more easily identified both by owners and users. We expect the countryside bodies to exercise their discretion with care and not

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seek to embrace land which is not integral to the open country or which is incompatible with the right of access. If any additional land is included in maps of open country as a result of this discretion, landowners will have the right of appeal. However, we are referring here to relatively small and obvious additions or subtractions from the designation of open countryside.

In Committee the noble Earl suggested that that could include all kinds of features such as farmland, river banks, foreshore and so forth. That misunderstands the scope of what is intended here. It enables the countryside body to extend the area of open countryside from its natural boundary only to the nearest physical feature beyond. In the vast majority of cases, that will probably mean an extension of only a few tens of metres to a stone wall, fence or perhaps to the bank of a stream. It will not allow maps to include vast areas of new farmland, foreshore or woodland, about which the noble Earl was concerned.

The discretion is sensible and will meet the point about which a number of noble Lords have expressed concern; namely, exactly how the punter is to understand where access land begins and where it ends. The scenarios depicting an abuse of this facility envisaged by the noble Earl are misplaced.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, I am reassured by some of the Minister's words. However, again, nothing has been put on to the face of the Bill to implement what he has said. I understand the thoughts of the noble Lord; they are exactly what I hope my thoughts would be were I sitting in his place. But that is not what the countryside body will think. Under the Bill it will have total discretion to include adjacent land of any shape, size or description--including river banks. No curtailment has been put in place.

I hope that the countryside body will read with care what has been said by the Minister. Can he confirm one further important point; namely, that the extension of adjacent land will be to a physical feature on the ground, not a physical feature on a map? It will be no good if representatives of the countryside body sit behind their desks and say, "We'll just include that bit of land because it will round off the map nicely to make a square". This must refer to a physical feature on the ground in order to ensure that this part of the clause will work. I should be glad of the Minister's confirmation.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, a physical feature is a physical feature. It is not a graphical feature.

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, that is of some help. I fear that, again, the Government will cause many problems for themselves here. I foresee a huge number of appeals being lodged by owners because nothing constructive has been added to the Bill. The provision is still far too open ended. Once more, the Minister has left himself open. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 62:


    Page 3, line 35, at end insert--


(" (c) shall incorporate a minimum of one primary access point per area of open country or, where the boundary of such an area is forty miles or longer, per twenty miles of boundary, and
(d) may incorporate secondary access points.
( ) In this section--
(a) a primary access point shall provide a minimum of--
(i) a car park for not less than six vehicles,
(ii) toilets, and
(iii) an information point;
(b) a secondary access point shall provide a minimum of an information point.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a very important amendment. We discussed in Committee the ways in which people will find out where they can go and what they can do. We also discussed primary access points. I suspect that the Minister will tell me that my amendment is inadequate, but I should like to begin by putting forward the case for its inclusion. I accept that the drafting may not be perfect and that it may make too many demands, but I believe that this is an important point.

In March this year the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published a policy document on the implications of open access. The document makes a number of points, among which are the following.

First, experience across the country suggests that the Act may increase total demand rather than simply spreading the existing demand across a wider landscape. Again, we referred to that in our earlier debates in Committee.

Secondly, visitors to those parts of the countryside which are already open fall into three categories: those who park the car to look at a view and then perhaps take a gentle stroll. They appreciate the car parks, toilet facilities and cafes which often accompany such sites. Then there are those who walk quite long distances, but would prefer to walk on a footpath, following a signposted course. And, of course, there are the independent walkers, who bring their own sustenance, their own maps, their compasses and their ideas of where they wish to go. Thirdly, the management of access is essential and, to be effective, should consist of forward planning, provision of infrastructure, a behaviour framework of by-laws and information, and agreement on the funding and provision of effective wardening.

At this point no one knows in what proportions the new access rights will attract visitors. It seems a fair bet, however, that an increasingly fit and comfortably-off retired population will take the opportunity to explore. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was definitely promoting a healthy attitude for walkers in his earlier amendment. Some of them will do so from the warmth and comfort of their car and some will seek "comfort facilities". Given a map which shows the location of car parks and toilets, they will plan their itinerary to include those facilities. Others will kit

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themselves out with thermos flasks and walking sticks and drive to a suitable starting location on which they have decided.

They will be grateful for a place to park their car safely, and they will be grateful to have an information point which contains the latest news about areas that are closed, areas that are particularly worth visiting at that time, and suggested walks of specified lengths and grades of difficulty. The remainder will require little or nothing in the way of help and may even prefer public transport over the car.

The amendment, we understand, is not at odds with the thinking of the Countryside Agency. It merely seeks to put on the face of the Bill a minimum requirement for service levels for visitors. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that such a requirement would be greatly to the advantage of the agency, the wildlife bodies and the occupiers of the land, who could provide facilities at which visitors may wish to spend their money. I am reminded of the ways in which the RSPB and other organisations raise money at places such as Minsmere and the National Trust at Dunwich.

The detail of the amendment is self-explanatory, although we feel that it will be necessary to have a minimum number of secondary points simply to provide a means of showing those who lose their way where they are and where the nearest facilities or help may be obtained. No one should lose sight of the fact that this country has amazing weather and that sometimes, with little or no warning, hikers can be caught out. Those are the reasons behind the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend can explain who is to provide the facilities enumerated under paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) of her amendment. It seems to me that the cost of putting down car parks for not less than six vehicles--bearing in mind that one of those vehicles, or some of them, could be buses, which are very heavy and need solid foundations--lavatories and an information point will amount to a lot of money.

If we are to agree to the amendment, it should be made clear on the face of the Bill that the provision of these facilities will be the responsibility of public bodies. It should certainly not be the responsibility of the landowners or occupiers of the land in that area of open country. Can my noble friend explain who will be responsible for doing this? My guess would be that if the responsibility for producing these facilities was in the hands of public bodies--they always seem to spend twice as much on providing facilities as the private sector--one could quite quickly get into the realm of £100,000. These are very expensive undertakings. I see a great deal of strength in the amendment and it has a great deal of merit. But if we are to accept it, it ought to make clear whose responsibility it is to provide these facilities.

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12.45 a.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I understand the reasons for wanting some provision on the face of the Bill at this point. Indeed, in Committee we debated an amendment about recommended access points. I have a number of difficulties with this particular amendment.

First, I am not sure why we want to differentiate between a primary and a secondary access point. The important issue relates to how people will use the access onto the land. In summer, they may choose a popular access point at the top of a hill, but in winter they may choose one that is lower down. I can see the reason for having a recommended access point. Public information needs to be located somewhere. All along, we have advocated the importance of the public being able to see where the information is.

As regards the second part of the amendment, I am much more nervous. I have no idea what the circumference of Dartmoor is, but I think that the number of toilet blocks that this might bring would be unacceptable to the people of Devon. There are other ways of achieving that. One of the huge benefits of local pubs is that, as well as providing the food and drinks, they provide the toilet blocks.

I should not want to see car parks specified as a necessity at access points. Some national park authorities have led the way in getting rid of cars from sensitive areas and introducing a shuttle bus arrangement. Looking to the future, I do not think that car parks should be a major aspiration. We should consider other methods and it must be done on a local basis. Some access authorities will find car parks a necessity, but it should be up to them to think about how best to provide those facilities.


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