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Clause 54—(Provision For Public Access To Open Country)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 42, line 20, to leave out "they are given access," and to insert:

"the provisions of the next following section are applied."
This Amendment is not much more than a drafting Amendment. We suggest that "they are given access," is open to dispute or doubt and it might be held that because they were given access persons would not be trespassers, whereas under Clause 55 (1) they could be trespassers. We think this is clearer.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 42, line 33, to leave out "adjacent to" and to insert "adjoining."

It will be remembered that in Committee when discussing subsection (2) of Clause 54 we raised the point that we felt the definition of open country as applied to the sea coast and as provided in the original Bill was too vague. It read:
"cliff or foreshore (including any bank, barrier, dune, beach, flat or other land adjacent to the foreshore)."
That appeared rather muddled and not very easy to visualise. A lot of land such as mud flats may run far inland and is in no way really part of the shore. We understood the intention of the Bill was to include the seashore, but these words might include a part of the land which was not part of the seashore. I believe the Minister gave a promise that he would reconsider this matter, but, as nothing further has appeared on the Order Paper, we put down this Amendment largely in an exploratory way.

I suggest that "adjoining the foreshore" would be an improvement on "adjacent to the foreshore." I believe the intention was to include the shore in open country, but it should be the shore and not other pieces of land which may not be touching the shore. "Adjacent to" may mean with a strip of agricultural land between and I do not think that is the intention, but the intention is that people should be able to walk round the coast, if so minded, in open country. I believe that "adjacent to" will include a large area of mud flats, particularly in the Eastern counties, to walk upon which is of no profit to any one, and it should not be included as part of the shore.

I admit that I promised on the Committee stage to look again of this Clause. I have done so, and I am satisfied that it is satisfactory and is not open to the objections which the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) fears. This is a definition of open country. It is not necessarily land to which access will be given—land will be made access land under a different operation—but it is land to which access may be given either by an access agreement or an access order. I would in the first place remind the hon. and gallant Member that the words:

"or other land adjacent to the foreshore)."
refers only to the type of land which has already been described, namely, "bank, barrier, dune, beach, flat …" and "or other land" cannot mean a different type of land altogether. I am told that it must mean, according to the laws of construction, land similar to one of those specified. Therefore, there can be no question of it being agricultural land or land of a different character.

To use the word "adjoining" would unnecessarily restrict what is in mind. There might be something between which would not technically be within this definition, but nevertheless it might be desirable to treat the whole area as one. The hon. and gallant Member may be reassured by the fact that in any case a good deal more has to be done to convert open country into access land, and if any such matters as he suggests arise they can always be pleaded in any objection that may be made to an access order. It would however be unnecessarily restrictive to substitute "adjoining" for "adjacent," and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.