Clause 54 relates to exercise of rights of entry. It sets out the process for exercising the rights of entry under clause 53 and provides safeguards for property owners.
The validity of any warrant obtained under clause 53 is time-limited to six weeks from the date issued. A right of entry under clause 53(1) is exercisable at any reasonable time. A person authorised under clause 53 to enter land must ensure that the property owner is given at least 14 days’ notice before entry is sought. If a person wilfully obstructs any authorised person exercising this right of entry, they are committing an offence.
We had a lengthy discussion about time limits. On the face of it, this proposal of six weeks for validity of the warrant seems curtailed and short. I do not know whether that is how such things are ordinarily done, but can the issue be returned to and subsequent warrants sought if it is not exercised in the six-week period?
May I explain why we have to do this? While we were developing route options for the stage that is under consideration at the moment, a number of landowners did not allow access to land. That gave us some very real problems, particularly in the way that we surveyed some of the ancient woodland and environmental features. It was only when we subsequently could survey the land that we understood the problems in more detail. The proposal would also apply to some of the noise modelling that we need to do, because it is often important to be able to do that work.
We also have a particularly intractable problem in the London borough of Hillingdon. In the Hillingdon outdoor activities centre, we want to go into the lake to carry out some boring to see how a viaduct that we wish to construct in the lake can be done, and the London borough has prevented us from going on to that land. That is very disappointing indeed, because the organisation concerned—the charity that runs this fantastic activities centre—will lose the money that we were going to give them for the disruption that the work would cause, which is between £20,000 and £40,000. It will also mean that we cannot get access to that land until the Bill gets Royal Assent, so we will not be able to draw up as detailed a viaduct design as we would like. We want these viaducts to be designed in an exciting way, so it is disappointing that this has happened. With these powers, it will be possible in future cases to get on to the land to carry out the surveys, whether for engineering, construction or environmental reasons.
The short answer to the hon. Gentleman’s other question is yes: another warrant can be applied for, but an explanation for why the initial warrant was not exercised would need to be given.