|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Stanley of Alderley: I am pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, welcome us here. I am afraid that by the end of this Committee stage he might wish I was not here. I have to declare an interest. Most of the times that I have come into contact with conservation do-gooders have not been particularly happy as far as I am concerned. The amendment on which I wish to dwell is Amendment No. 3, which leaves out "intrusive". I gather that the noble Lord would like to keep this in the Bill, although I have to say I disagree with his views on Amendment No. 2. I am more interested in people than I am in birds and plants. However, as regards "intrusive", I wish to make the point very strongly that any development is naturally intrusive. These developments are absolutely essential to our rural well-being, which at the moment--noble Lords may be unaware of this--is in a state of crisis. Very few farms today are making money unless it is from outside agriculture, and I speak with great feeling both for Wales and Oxfordshire. At present activity
I am worried about that, but I would not cross swords about the words. However, I am most anxious that we should be encouraged to do "intrusive" things. I hope that the noble Baroness may change the word perhaps to "diversification", but diversification always requires some form of intrusion. Perhaps I may give one perfect example. At the Oxfordshire farm, we wished to make a reservoir. It was encouraged by the water authority. This was strongly opposed by conservation bodies because while we were making it--and I make no bones about it--there was a horrible mess. However, now it is finished I have yet to find anybody who does not think it is absolutely delightful because it has improved the environment altogether. I should be worried if the Bill does not accept the whole principle that the first priority of the countryside is human beings; and I should also be worried if there was any form of stopping development.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My name was added to this amendment in error. There may have been a misunderstanding as I have had to ask for my name to be added to two other amendments. I should like to say that I was delighted to hear my noble friend Lord Renton say that he would accept Amendment No. 1 if other Members of the Committee were so minded. I would hope that Members of the Committee would accept "sustaining" rather than "maintaining". Perhaps I might give some encouragement to my noble friend Lord Renton. I believe that there is an active part of the word "sustaining" in the modern sense when we talk about sustainable development. It has taken on a completely new meaning in the past few years. Whereas perhaps when I was studying 30 years ago, I might well have agreed with him as to the difference in the application of the words "sustaining and maintaining", in the context of this Bill and within the context of modern political understanding of sustainable development, the "sustaining" might well meet his original objectives.
In deference to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley on this occasion, as in some others, I have to disagree with him on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 and on this occasion agree with my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry.
Again, like him, but for different reasons, I object to Amendment No. 2 because the main purpose of the 1949 Act, and therefore of this Bill in relation to that Act, concerns landscapes. We picked up livelihoods and communities, but as a subsidiary, socio-economic factor when we come on to later amendments--and my Amendment No. 6--that is where the emphasis should
Again I do not have any particularly strong views one way or the other in relation to Amendment No. 3. Is the Minister, who, incidentally is to be congratulated on her birthday today, able to tell us whether there are any technical connotations--for example in planning--which might affect the absence of the word "intrusive"?
Lord Jopling: I came here today having spoken at Second Reading and having declared an interest as a farmer but in neither a national park nor an AONB. I came here with no great feelings of enthusiasm for this Bill, but no great feelings of antagonism either. I must say that the comments of my noble friend Lord Renton frightened the life out of me when he spoke of his reactions to Amendment No. 2. He used a phrase which I do not begin to understand. He said that to insert the words "livelihoods" and "communities" into the Bill was looking backwards. I urge him to explain to us exactly what he meant by that.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I must say to my noble friend that it is coupled with the word "sustaining". I was making the point that, in my judgment, if we couple the word "sustaining" (which I am prepared to do) with the words "livelihoods" and "communities", that has too much of a backward look to it. We are not arguing about livelihoods. We are going to move on to amendments which I support in relation to AONBs having social and economic purposes. That is the amendment which I support. My specific reference was to the phrase "sustaining livelihoods".
Lord Jopling: I am sorry but I still do not understand that. I should have thought it was immensely important, if we are going to impose on these areas the possibility of a new layer of democracy, that one of its first and prime objectives should be to sustain livelihoods and communities. We are not talking about the situation in the United States where national parks are areas where people do not live. They are desolate areas. We are talking about something totally different. As I said at Second Reading, I speak with some experience on this, having previously represented in another place areas containing two national parks and two--I said one before--areas of outstanding natural beauty which were part of them.
If we are going to impose a new layer of bureaucracy, it must be prepared to have as one of its prime objectives, as well as looking after the landscape and the flora and fauna, the sustenance of the local communities and their livelihoods. It has been said many times before that so much of the beauty of these places is man-made by the local communities and the people who make their living in those areas. It is therefore essential that we include those words in the Bill. I hope that my noble friend Lord Rotherwick will
Lord Bridges: Perhaps I may approach these amendments from a slightly different direction. It would interest me to know whether the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, would fit well with the Department of the Environment's existing policy of planning guidance--I believe it is No. 7--on what is permitted inside an area of outstanding natural beauty. From recollection, what the PPG notice says is that no major commercial development shall be allowed inside an AONB unless it meets two tests: first, national need; secondly, absence of an alternative site. It seems to me that if we are to avoid major developments of a quasi industrial nature from outside, we ought to know about that. Possibly the noble Baroness could take an opportunity to inform us in her comments.
I should like to make one other comment which derives from a visit last year to the Italian national park of the Abruzzo in the central Appennines to the east of Rome. I was interested to discover from the chairman of the park that they had a very intensive debate on precisely this matter. It is an area of pretty high mountains going up to 6,000 feet, largely cloaked in mature historic beech forest--a very beautiful place. The local inhabitants were resistant to the creation of a national park because they felt that it would destroy the economic activities which they and their predecessors had enjoyed for many years. However, the park has been going for some 20 or 30 years and it is evident that the prosperity of the inhabitants has substantially increased because of the number of visitors to the villages in the park and the economic activities to which it gives rise. It is to be borne in mind that the maintenance of these parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty does not necessarily mean fossilising the economy; it can lead to additional sources of income from the people who visit the park.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for his good wishes. The only thing I can think of that would be more pleasant than discussing this important issue of areas of outstanding natural beauty would have been to have spent the afternoon visiting at least one of them and then to have gone for a quiet evening meal in a countryside setting. Failing that, I am pleased that the Committee has the opportunity today to consider the possible content of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry.
The Government will take into account the views which Members of the Committee express today in their continuing consideration of their response to the former Countryside Commission's advice on the future management and protection of our AONBs. An announcement of the Government's intentions can be expected soon although it might be helpful if I made clear at this stage that there is no certainty that an announcement of the Government's intentions on the South Downs and AONBs will be made before the Summer Recess. It may well be later. I should explain
I turn to the three amendments before the Committee. The established purpose of areas of outstanding natural beauty is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty. There are advantages in sticking with that accepted central purpose. The Government cannot therefore accept Amendment No. 1.
The drafting of Clause 1 and some of the amendments to it demonstrate the difficulty in trying to come up with new words. The debate so far underlines that. There is little to chose between "maintaining" in the clause as drafted or "sustaining" natural beauty as proposed in Amendment No. 1. However, it is doubtful whether either of them are any better than "conserving" or "enhancing".
The Government cannot accept Amendment No. 2 either. We should wish to look at the question of socio-economic duties in the context of the wider powers and duties of local authorities. Amendment No. 2 would provide for the continuing conservation of livelihoods and communities in AONBs. We need to look carefully at how the interests of communities in AONBs are taken into account, and what responsibilities conservation boards should have if those boards come into being. I am not convinced that the phrasing of the amendment is likely to prove the best choice.
Unfortunately, the Government also cannot accept Amendment No. 3 because we consider that the terms employed are too imprecise. Descriptions such as "intrusive development" or "incongruous and insensitive development" are extraordinarily difficult to define. I fear that they would give lawyers, consultants, objectors and NIMBYs a field day. Were the Bill to progress further towards the statute book, the Government would wish to look carefully at how to address the concept which various Members of the Committee are trying to define.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page