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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is a perfectly proper question. The issue is dealt with in Amendment No. 193A. If we have not satisfied the noble Baroness by the end of that debate, we shall have to talk about it again before Third Reading.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am being careful because we are on Report. I thank the Minister for that

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comment, but I did not think that Amendment No. 193A, which I am looking forward to debating, covered what I am trying to cover in this amendment. The slight problem is that if I leave it until we debate Amendment No. 193A, I shall not be able to come back to this one. That is why I want to press the Minister to agree that he will at least think about the problem before I have to make my decision.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, can I try Amendment No. 194B?

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I think that I am being outbowled. It is early in the day. I see that a message has just come to the Minister. Perhaps I should wait a minute.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not have anything to add. We can debate the issue later. I should be very sorry if we were to part company on the amendment, because it would not achieve what the noble Baroness wants.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I understand where the Minister is coming from. Pending our later debates on the issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 [Amendments relating to creation, stopping up and diversion of highways]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 167:


    Page 76, line 11, at end insert--


(". In section 26 of the 1980 Act (compulsory powers for creation of footpaths and bridleways) after subsection (3) there is inserted--
"(3A) The considerations to which--
(a) the Secretary of State is to have regard in determining whether or not to confirm or make a public path creation order, and
(b) a local authority is to have regard in determining whether or not to confirm such an order as an unopposed order,
include any material provision of a rights of way improvement plan prepared by any local highway authority whose area includes land over which the proposed footpath or bridleway would be created."").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 172 and 173. The amendments arise from commitments that we gave in Committee to consider amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, which were designed to ensure that decisions on individual orders closing or diverting footpaths and bridleways under Sections 118 and 119 of the Highways Act 1980 would be taken in the context of the area's rights of way improvement plan. We agree with that objective and believe that the same principle should apply to orders made under Section 26 of the 1980 Act creating footpaths and bridleways.

The amendments relate to orders made by local authorities, the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales. An order made by a local authority cannot take effect until it is confirmed. A local authority may confirm its own order if it is

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unopposed, but only the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales may confirm opposed orders. The amendments would require that, when deciding whether or not to confirm an order, a confirming authority should have regard to any material provision of a rights of way improvement plan for the area that includes land over which a footpath or bridleway would be created, extinguished or, in the case of a diversion, created and extinguished. The three amendments deal with each of those three cases.

Orders made by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales do not require confirmation. They are published first in draft and made only after any objections have been considered. The amendments would also require the Secretary of State or the Assembly to have regard to the rights of way improvement plan or plans for the area before making an order, just as they would be required to do before confirming one.

On a technical point, it might help the House if I add that it is not necessary to make express provision for the making of closure or diversion orders, because Section 120(3)(b) of the 1980 Act provides for that, when taken with Amendments Nos. 172 and 173. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My Lords, could an improvement plan include not only the granting of a new right of way, but also the abolition of an old one?

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I warmly welcome the amendments, which the Government have tabled in response to amendments that we tabled in Committee. We were concerned that the improvement plans should genuinely improve the rights of way network. The Bill should leave no gaps that would allow the network to be diminished. That would go against common sense, but if a loophole were left it could happen. The amendments considerably strengthen Part II.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her support. The answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is, yes, plans could cover extinguishment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 168:


    Page 76, line 32, at end insert--


("1A. In section 31 of the 1980 Act (dedication of way as highway presumed after public use for 20 years), in subsection (6), in each of paragraphs (i) and (ii) for "six" there is substituted "ten".
1B. After section 31 of the 1980 Act there is inserted--
"Register of maps, statements and declarations.
31A.--(1) The appropriate council shall keep, in such manner as may be prescribed, a register containing such information as may be prescribed with respect to maps and statements deposited and declarations lodged with that council under section 31(6) above.

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(2) Regulations may make provision for the register to be kept in two or more parts, each part containing such information as may be prescribed with respect to such maps, statements and declarations.
(3) Regulations may make provision as to circumstances in which an entry relating to a map, statement or declaration, or anything relating to it, is to be removed from the register or from any part of it.
(4) Every register kept under this section shall be available for inspection free of charge at all reasonable hours.
(5) In this section--
"appropriate council" has the same meaning as in section 31(6) above;
"prescribed" means prescribed by regulations;
"regulations" means regulations made by the Secretary of State."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 168 arises from a commitment that we gave in Committee to consider an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. That amendment was aimed at streamlining the processes under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 whereby a landowner may, through the deposit of various documents, rebut the presumption that he intended to dedicate a way as a highway as a result of the public having used the way for 20 years without interruption.

An owner may deposit a map and a statement showing all the ways on his land which he admits are dedicated as highways. Declarations are required every six years thereafter to the effect that no additional ways have been dedicated over the land. This amendment would increase the period for making declarations from six to 10 years. It would also require local authorities to keep a register of maps, statements and declarations and make them available free of charge for inspection by the public.

The requirement in relation to registers is broadly in line with the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness. However, it differs in some respects. The noble Baroness's amendment would have required that a combined map and statement be deposited when land changed hands and would have removed the requirement for subsequent declarations to be made at regular intervals.

We believe that those changes would have undermined the notion of deemed dedication. The procedures set out in Section 31(6) are designed to protect a landowner's interests while, at the same time, taking account of the public interest served by the concept of deemed dedication. That balance would be altered significantly if a single deposit of a map and statement by a landowner were to remain valid until the land changed hands; for example, in our view, it would soon become standard conveyancing practice for maps and statements to be deposited on the transfer of the land. It is also clear that land may be held for many years beyond a person's natural life by a company or trust and therefore not change hands.

There are also other ways in which a landowner can make his intention clear. He can, for example, put up a notice to that effect, he can lock a gate or he can close off a way for one day a year. A landowner is not obliged to follow the procedures set out in Section 31(6) of the 1980 Act.

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When we discussed this matter in Committee, we made it clear that we would be prepared to agree to a reduction in bureaucracy. I believe that the amendment achieves that, but not to an extent which would undermine the concept of deemed dedication. We believe that, by extending the period for making declarations to 10 years, any burden on landowners would be significantly reduced while ensuring that Section 31 continues to do what it was designed to do. I beg to move.


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