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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her words, and all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I am reassured that there is already strong environmental protection for these sites, but I am not reassured that it is necessarily always going to work.
There are two dimensions. First, I was interested in the experience of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and his wind farms. There was an example where there were environmental considerations that should have given a strong signal to the developer that it was not a sensible place to put a wind farm, but he nevertheless barrelled on. One assumes that it will go to appeal. So we are not giving the right signals to potential developers of sites that it is a waste of their time, effort and money to get into disputes in areas where there is a very strong case for the protection of the biodiversity interest, and where it is therefore going to be a struggle for them to get permission. We need to give them very strong signals that it is going to be a lot easier and cheaper for them not to set their hearts on some of these highly protected biodiversity sites.
We also have a case in Kent at the moment, for a housing development being proposed to the local authority. I am earnestly hoping the planning authority will turn it down. It is a proposition for 5,000 houses to be built on 300 hectares of a site of special scientific interest. If the development goes ahead it will be the largest loss of SSSI land for the last 30 years in this country. It will be a complete outrage. But the developer has been barking enough to set themselves on that site. That is an example where the developer is simply not reading the signals, so the signals need to be absolutely explicit.
I very much appreciate the point that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, made. This is an effort to try and make sure that fracking gets off on the best possible foot, with a really clear commitment linked specifically to shale gas extraction about environmental protection being absolutely paramount. We should not just rely on other pre-existing legislation, but gather together the real requirements that this industry needs to take account of, so that we can reassure the public and move ahead.
I was hoping that the noble Baroness might give me hope for Amendment 115 at future stages of the Bill, because the situation seems totally anomalous. I would like to understand from her why the Government felt it necessary to issue guidance on areas of outstanding beauty and national parks, which have strong environmental protection requirements already, but not on the other nature conservation sites. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and hope the Minister might think more kindly of the amendments in pushing the Bill to another place.
Amendment 113H withdrawn.
Moved by Lord Wigley
114: Clause 32, page 38, line 15, at end insert—
“(6) This section shall not extend to Wales unless an order authorising it has been passed by the National Assembly for Wales.
(7) An order under subsection (6) may contain any conditions which the Assembly deems appropriate.”