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9 May 2003 : Column WA153

Written Answers

Friday 9th May 2003.

Common Land: Vehicular Access

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made generally known the need for people affected by Section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 with regard to vehicular access across common land to apply by 4 July 2003 for a statutory easement under S.I. 2002/1711, and, if so, how this has been communicated; and[HL2692]

    How people affected by S.I. 2002/1711 (vehicular access across common land) will be able to apply for an easement when the owner of that common land is unknown.[HL2693]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Applications for statutory easements may be made after 4 July 2003 provided that relevant use of the access is continuing. In this context "relevant" means use in such a manner and for such a time that, had it not been an offence to drive on the land, a prescriptive right would have been acquired.

Where there is no known land owner, owners of premises are very unlikely to be faced with use of the access being prevented, or with having to pay a large sum of money to obtain a legal right of access. The Common Land Policy Statement 2002 proposed that future legislation should provide for unclaimed common land to be vested in a local authority or other suitable body. Should this happen, or should an owner come forward in the future, owners of premises would be able to apply under Section 68 as long as relevant use was continuing.

While some owners of premises could lose the right to apply because of the time limits contained in the regulations, we consider this unlikely to happen. In November 2002 we issued a non-statutory guidance note with advice on the purpose and operation of Statutory Instrument 2002/1711, including a detailed explanation on the time limits for the submission of applications. This has been circulated very widely. We also undertook three public consultations and issued press releases when the Statutory Instrument was laid before Parliament and when it came into force. The new procedures have also been the subject of a number of articles in both national and local media.

Wild Animal Carcasses

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they have in place for the collection and disposal of (a) infected badger carcasses, and (b) wild animals killed on roads.[HL2695]

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Lord Whitty: It is unlikely that it would be possible to tell whether a badger carcass was infected with bovine TB. The presence of the bovine TB causative organism (M. bovis) is established by post-mortem examination and the bacteriological culture of samples.

The EU Animal By-Products Regulation, which applied in member states from 1 May, requires, among other things, that wild animals suspected of being infected with diseases communicable to humans and animals, such as bovine TB, are disposed of at an approved plant using one of the following methods:


    (1) incineration;


    (2) rendering followed by incineration; or


    (3) pressure rendering followed by landfill.

Trading standards, who enforce the regulation, have received guidance notes and training on the new rules. In addition, information on the disposal of animal carcasses is available on the Defra website, at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/by-prods/default.htm., and from local Defra animal health offices.

Carcasses, or parts of carcasses, of wild animals will be exempt from the scope of the Animal By-Products Regulation unless they are thought to be diseased or are used to produce game trophies. Although the regulation places them under no legal obligation, owners of property on which there are dead wild animals are advised to contact their local authority for advice on appropriate disposal methods.

In addition, on advice from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG), a limited Road Traffic Accident (RTA) survey of badger carcasses is being conducted in seven counties in England (Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Dorset). The objective of the survey is to determine, with the ISG's help, if RTA data can provide an accurate indication of the prevalence of M. bovis in badgers by comparing it with the data from the randomised badger-culling trial.

If farmers in the counties listed above find a badger carcass on their land they can contact the survey co-ordinators, Central Science Laboratory (CSL), using a freephone number, to arrange collection. Precise details of the location of the carcass will need to be provided.

SSSIs: Publication of Code of Guidance

Baroness Wilkins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the code of guidance entitled Sites of Specific Scientific Interest: Encouraging Positive Partnerships.[HL2745]

Lord Whitty: Copies of the code of guidance, Sites of Special Scientific Interest: Encouraging Positive Partnerships have today been placed in the House Library. This code applies to England only. It was laid in Parliament on 5 February and debated in the House of Commons on 26 February. Approval was given in

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the House of Commons on 4 March and it was debated and approved in the House of Lords on 4 April. The new code reflects the substantial changes in legislation governing sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and replaces with immediate effect the existing code of guidance published in 1982.

As required by Section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the code sets out advice, recommendations and information for everyone involved in managing SSSIs, including English Nature, public and private bodies, and individual owners and occupiers. It is also a valuable reference for those whose activities and functions might be affected by the legislation protecting SSSIs, or whose activities

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might have an impact on SSSIs. It imposes no additional burdens on owners or occupiers, and helps to establish a clear understanding of the basic legislative regime for protecting and enhancing our SSSIs.

SSSIs are the best examples of our natural heritage of wildlife habitats, geological features, and landforms. Over one million hectares of land, or 7 per cent of the total area of England is designated as SSSI. By increasing understanding of the framework for their protection and management, the code will be an important step towards the Government's PSA target to ensure that 95 per cent of the SSSI area is in favourable condition by 2010, and to achieving the objectives of the biodiversity strategy for England, published in October last year.



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