Hedgerows

Clause 96 – in the House of Commons at 10:30 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Amendment proposed: No. 110, in page 120, line 29, at end insert—

  1. '(2A) For the purpose of facilitating the protection of important hedgerows, regulations under subsection (1) above may also make provision in relation to other hedgerows in England or Wales.
  2. (2B) Without prejudice to the generality of subsections (1) to (2A) above, regulations under subsection (1) above may provide for the application (with or without modifications) of, or include provision comparable to, any provision contained in the planning Acts and may, in particular, make provision—
    1. (a) prohibiting, or for prohibiting, the removal of, or the carrying out of prescribed acts in relation to, a hedgerow except in prescribed cases;
    2. (b) for or with respect to appeals against determinations or decisions made, or notices given or served, under or by virtue of the regulations, including provision authorising or requiring any body or person to whom an appeal lies to consult prescribed persons with respect to the appeal in prescribed cases;
    3. (c) for a person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any prescribed provision of the regulations to be guilty of an offence;
    4. (d) for a person guilty of an offence by virtue of paragraph (c) above which consists of the removal, in contravention of the regulations, of a hedgerow of a description prescribed for the purposes of this paragraph to be liable—
      1. (i) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or
      2. (ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine;
    5. (e) for a person guilty of any other offence by virtue of paragraph (c) above to be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding such level on the standard scale as may be prescribed.
  3. (2C) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different cases, including different provision in relation to different descriptions of hedgerow, different descriptions of person, different areas or localities or different circumstances.'.—[Mr. Atkins.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment (a) to the proposed amendment, leave out lines 2 to 4 and insert— '(2A) Regulations under subsection (1) above may also make provision in relation to other hedgerows in England and Wales, but only to the extent necessary for the purpose of facilitating the protection of important hedgerows.' Amendment (b) to the proposed amendment, in line 4, at end insert— '() Regulations under subsection (1) above shall make provision for or with respect to appeals against determinations or decisions made, or notices given or served, under or by virtue of the regulations, and may include provision authorising or requiring any body or person to whom and appeal lies to consult prescribed persons with respect to the appeal in prescribed cases.' Amendment (c) to the proposed amendment, leave out lines 11 to 14.

Government amendments Nos. 111 to 115.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am sorry to have to detain the House again. I have long been concerned with hedgerows and I should have preferred the issue to have been dealt with not by means of legislation. However, that battle is lost and the Government have introduced provisions in the Bill to deal with hedgerows.

The amendments would ensure that the provisions have as light a touch as possible. I should like the Government to specify clearly in their guidance what are considered important hedgerows. What is meant by important hedgerows is crucial. We do not want to specify every hedgerow; otherwise, landowners, farmers and others would have significant additional obligations placed on them.

In another place, Lord Ullswater said that an appeals mechanism would be introduced so that if someone who was notified about an important hedgerow disagreed with the designation, he could appeal against it. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend could reassure me about the appeals mechanism to be included in the guidance.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

Amendments (a) to (c) would revise Government amendment No. 110 in two ways. Amendment (a) recasts subsection (2A). It would enable regulations to make provisions in relation to other hedgerows but only to the extent necessary for the purpose of facilitating the protection of important hedgerows. I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend. My amendment does not simply state that regulations may make provision about other hedgerows. If it did, I would understand and sympathise with my hon. Friend's sentiments. But my amendment goes further than that; it states in plain terms that the regulations may make such provision for the purpose of facilitating the protection of important hedgerows. I do not think that my hon. Friend's amendment adds anything to that, since the purpose of subsection (2A) is clearly expressed.

Amendments (b) and (c) relate to appeals, to which my hon. Friend referred briefly in his conclusion.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

I do not want to delay the House by speaking on improvements in the way in which hedgerow legislation is evolving. I want to put it on record that we support the measures that the Minister is taking, but will the measures that he is moving apply to hedgerows in semi-urban and urban areas, which may be important?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

It is certainly not my intention to move into urban areas if I can possibly avoid it. There are grave concerns on both sides of the House about the implications of all that. Clearly, some exceptionally important hedgerows might have to be considered. In that sense, the hon. Gentleman may be reassured.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) referred to appeals. It was generally agreed in another place that rights of appeal should form an essential part of the scheme's arrangements. That is indeed our intention. We undertook to consider whether some provision on appeals should be included on the face of the Bill. Subsection (2B)(b) of amendment No. 110 does so in widely drawn terms, for the good reason that we cannot, at this stage, prejudge the terms of the scheme that emerges from consultation.

I can understand the purpose behind amendment (b), which states that provision for appeals has to be made against determinations or decisions made, or notices given or served, under…the regulations". I am concerned, however, that its effect might be unfortunate. It might place a requirement on the Government to provide rights of appeal against all decisions and determinations. That would include a decision to allow a hedgerow to be removed, which is not what my hon. Friend intends.

We must wait until we are clear about how the arrangements will work in practice before we consider the means by which decision makers should be challenged. I do not think that there is much difference between my hon. Friend and me, and I hope that, in the circumstances, he will not press his amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 111, in page 121, line 9, at end insert— ' "hedgerow" includes any stretch of hedgerow;'. No. 112, in page 121, line 14, at end insert— ' "the planning Acts" has the same meaning as it has in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by virtue of section 336(1) of that Act;'. No. 113, in page 121, line 15, leave out second 'prescribed' and insert 'specified, or of a description specified,'. No. 114, in page 121, line 16, at end insert— ' "remove", in relation to a hedgerow, means uproot or otherwise destroy, and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly;'. No. 115, in page 121, line 18, at end insert— '(6) Any reference in this section to removing, or carrying out an act in relation to, a hedgerow includes a reference to causing or permitting another to remove, or (as the case may be) carry out an act in relation to, a hedgerow.'.—[Mr. Atkins.]